Fulfilling the promise through CTE.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says, "For all its importance, the role that CTE plays in building the nation's economic vitality often gets overlooked. Too many educators assume that career and technical training is for the last century, not this one. Many reformers treat CTE as old school, rather than as a potential source of cutting-edge preparation for careers. In the new CTE we are working toward, all career and technical programs would serve as viable and rigorous pathways to postsccondary and workforce success."
Duncan noted that he has been encouraged by a number of examples he has seen in school districts across the nation. These programs, Duncan says, "give me peat hope for the future of CTE, not just to strengthen lives, but to strengthen our country."
Literacy Skills for the 21st Century
Among the issues often raised by proponents of school reform is increasing the literacy skills of our students. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) has identified what it terms Technology Centers That Work (TCTW), one of which is the Wes Watkins Technology Center (WWTC) in Wetumka, Oklahoma. WWTC's mission is helping every student succeed, and its well-equipped classrooms and computer labs are designed to enhance students' learning capabilities. WWTC's district serves portions of four counties--Okmulgee, Okfuskee, Hughes and McIntosh--and 10 partner schools. WWTC is an 18-time winner of the prestigious Gold Star School Designation of the Oklahoma Association of Technology Centers, and is one of only five schools in the nation to receive the first Gold Improvement Award from the TCTW initiative.
Student services at WWTC include a Literacy Team whose goal is to have all students reading and comprehending at: grade level. According to WWTC, students are assessed regularly throughout the process to guide all aspects of the intervention program, and highly effective teachers are assigned to work with each student to build his or her literacy skills. WWTC also offers General Education Development (GED) classes so that individuals who did not complete high school can earn GED certificates.
In the Career Advancement Center at WWTC, students have the opportunity to receive extra help to advance reading, writing, technology, communication and math skills. Instructors are available to provide extra help, and the center also serves as a resource hub for performing research, career exploration and planning, resume and portfolio development, assessments and interest inventories. The program includes seven courses that are aligned with Oklahoma's state curriculum assessment standards and offers Algebra I, Algebra II. Biology, English II and III, Geometry, and U.S. History. The center also provides Compass Testing, Gompass/ACT Preparation, Learning Styles Inventory, KetTrain/WorkKeys job skill assessment, Career Ability Testing, and the Oklahoma Career and Information System.
WWTC also has cooperative alliance agreements with Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee, Seminole State College, and Coffeyville Community College in Kansas; it recently added Bacone College in Muskogee to the list with the announcement that Bacone will award 37 college credit hours to those who complete WWTC Practical Nursing.
In bestowing the TCTW award, SREB cited the school's career portfolios, which the students develop to showcase their academic knowledge as well as their technical knowledge and skills. All students at WWTC develop these portfolios, described as representing "a student-managed collection of accomplishments and progress toward career goals." The portfolios contain resumes, school and work-based samples, letters of recommendation and career correspondence, and awards and recognitions students may have received. These career portfolios, notes SREB, reinforce literacy and ensure success.
Targeting Underprepared Students
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) has also identified promising programs and practices, and one of these is the Academy for College Excellence (AGFA Founded by Diego James Navarro, who left a career in the high-tech industry For one that was more personally rewarding, ACE was originally called the Digital Bridge Academy, since the idea was to help students bridge the digital divide as a solution to poverty. Navarro did research and interviews, and then refined and combined program elements to develop a specialized curriculum For the first student cohort. They were taught in the fall of 2003 at the Cabrillo College center in Watsonvillc, California. The target student population was underprcpared Latino students in a rural, agricultural community.
In fall 2006, three other northern California community colleges ran student cohorts: Las Positas College in Livermore, the College of Alameda. and Merrill College in Oakland. "These partnerships proved that the program curriculum was effective with urban students from diverse backgrounds. Las Positas College continues to run one ACE cohort every fall semester, with a focus on learning disabled students.
Cabrillo College had one cohort per semester at its Watsonville Center through spring 2008, and has since expanded to seven cohorts at both the Watsonville and Aptos campuses; Hartnell College in Salinas, meanwhile, not only became a partner, ii rapidly expanded its cohorts to seven. According 10 ACE, some of the cohorts attempt to accelerate students through the English developmental sequence, while others leverage ACE curriculum to enhance CTE programs.
ACTE isn't the only organization that has seen the promise of ACE. The Bill and Melinda Gales Foundation also recognized its potential and provided funding to help ACE expand to more colleges, including Berkeley City College and Los Medanos College, both in California, along with Southwest Virginia Community College, Delaware County Community College in Pennsylvania, and Truman College in Chicago.
The full-time, first-semester program targets the needs of underprcpared students, while equipping them to succeed in the technology-driven 21st century economy. Because underprepared students haven't thrived in traditional classrooms and have a history of low academic achievement, ACE established a methodology and curriculum that is intended to facilitate "a deeper connection between educators and students, while awakening students' desires to learn." The curriculum teaches accurate self-efficacy, self-motivation, mature behavior, self-awareness and goal setting.
Students who enroll in the program take the ACK classes with the same cohort of students for the whole semester, which is intended to help them from the friendships that will enable them to support one another through the program. The interactive learning incorporates hands-on exercises, and the ACE instructors coordinate assignments so that students don't have major assignments due at the same time, which they see as helping maximize their students' chances for success. The ACE classes also Feature "just-in-time learning." so that students actually apply new skills as soon as they learn them.
The first part of ACE is the Foundation Course, which is a two-week intensive course in which students discover their own working styles and improve their communication skills. Part two is the Bridge Semester, in which students be 2; in a regular full-time course schedule. According to ACE, the courses depend upon the type of cohort the student chooses, although every cohort takes a team management course in which they learn self-discipline skills such as time management and organization. Other possible courses include English, math or statistics, computer science, community and social issues research methods, career planning, and movement(stress management).
To find out how participation in ACE affects student outcomes, the organization developed a student sell-assessment survey with three parts: Pre-Semester, Post-Eoundation Courses and End-of-Bridge Semester. This data will help determine the types of students who benefit from the program and will help ACE make the most of its investments and efforts as it expands to other colleges.
To help colleges with the adoption process, AGE has developed the ACE Pathway, which it describes as a comprehensive methodology to help colleges increase retention and completion rates of students who leave before, during or after their first semester. ACE Pathway guides colleges through a process of both data-based inquiry and evidence-based actions intended to help them understand vulnerable students' needs, explore available interventions that meet those needs, build a vision of a better future, and implement a way forward.
Navarro notes that he intended for the ACE curriculum to change and develop over time, and flexibility was built into the model to encourage experimentation and innovation.
"Faculty and community college leaders passionate about AGE are often eager to bring the benefits to more of their students and faculty." he says. "In some cases, they are constrained by limiting; factors, so they come up with ingenious ways to adapt the ACE curriculum to work within those constraints." In the column, "Innovations from the Field," which can be found on its Web site, AGE shares what Navarro calls "proven and promising ways that our AGE partner colleges are expanding the ACE Model."
Through the ACE curriculum, students are acquiring knowledge and credentials, as well as leadership, management, communication and technical skills. Cabrillo College, where ACE was launched, describes the program as remarkably effective, boasting higher retention rates than the average community college student population and improved academic success for students.
Medlia literacy lor the Digital Age
At Bucks County Community College (BCCC), located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the Media and Instructional Design lab known as MInDSpace helps students develop awareness and understanding of new media literacies and 21st century skills, according to the League for Innovation in the Community College; the League named the program as one of its 2010 Innovation of the Year Award Winners. BCCC deseribes MInDSpace as a media learning lab designed to foster 21st century learning skills and media literacy. It provides research and production resources for non-media students, and for faculty it provides assistance in designing assignments with measurable goals and learning outcomes. The faculty support includes not only instructional design for emerging technologies, but help in developing assignments that lake advantage of students' multiple learning styles.
MInDSpace provides students with access to a collaborative workspace, multimedia production tools and expertise from staff. This helps students learn and apply media literacy skills and gain confidence in their ability to find information, analyze it and communicate what they learn through multimedia. As the League describes it, "MInDSpace represents a sandbox for innovation, collaboration and fun in learning and teaching."
A Promise Certified
ETA International (ETA-I) is a not-for-profit, professional association promoting excellence in electronics technologies through certifications. It also supports the academic, social and professional needs of the electronics professional, and with the assistance of its partner schools and administrators, offers a certification process to recognize those individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their fields. ETA-I is a frequent exhibitor at the ACTE Convention and Career Tech Expo and has a number of promising programs among the schools utilizing its electronics certification program, including Bowsher High School in Toledo. Ohio.
In Electronics Tech Pre I and II at Bowsher, juniors and seniors learn about parallax robots, parallax training programming, and earn certifications that include ETA-I's Certified Electronics Technician (CET) and Student Electronics Technician (SET), as well as OSHA Career Safe, Webxam and Tooling U certifications. They create exciting student projects that have involved equipment repair, plasma arcs, wireless power transmission and laser guitar pickups.
Louis Jimenez, tech prep electronics instructor at Bowsher High School, was the recipient of the Wallace Medeiros Memorial Educator of the Year Award from ETA-I because of his dedication to his students. Medeiros was a retired communications worker with GTK Corporation and a veteran who spent his retirement working with Honolulu Community College and the U.S. military at Barbers Point, Hawaii; he was known for teaching, inspiring and working on course development, in spite of his physical limitations as a quadriplegic, Jimenez, also a Navy veteran, started tour years ago with eight students in the program. He now has more than 60. He knew from the, start. that he wanted the program to be something exceptional, and he looked at others to use as models. One in particular that influenced him, and alter which Jimenez modeled his class, was Ed Yager's electronics course at Polaris Career Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
In his electronics classes, Jimencz explains. "I push two basic concepts to mv students every day: the most powerful tool, the most powerful weapon they will ever have is right between their ears; and there is no such thing as a bad mind or a bad memory; only an untrained one. What they learn in my two-year program can earn them up to live certifications and more than 100 job-related competencies. As seniors they also complete a Capstone project and participate in SkillsUSA competitions, which are required for graduation from my course. They relish the opportunity to show what can do."
Jimenez believes that, "Tech prep education is at the heart of today's high-tech, high-skill global economy. For America to remain economically competitive, our next generation of leaders, the students of today, must develop the critical reasoning, problem-solving, teamwork and collaboration skills that will help make them the most powerful and productive in the world."
Dedicated instructors are at the heart of successful GTE programs, and the Bowsher program is a good example of that. According to ETA-I: "In 2008 Mr. Jimenez took a retired, outdated electronics program and turned it into something amazing. Many hours of his personal time were poured into the development, and now three years later he is able to see his students excel in this field that he loves."
Jimenez says, "I'm just proud that what we're doing is making a difference, and that students who graduate from our tech prep programs have the knowledge, skills and certifications necessary to get a good-paying job directly from high school."
The Promise of CTE
CTE programs in high schools, community colleges, and career and technology centers across the country are providing outstanding academic education, technical skills and career opportunities to their students. Promising GTE programs will continue to emerge and will help us find innovative solutions to many of the problems facing our educational system today. In doing so, CTE will also help students achieve the promise of success.
For more information about the organizations and initiatives featured in this article, here are some Web sites to visit:
Academy for College Excellence
League for Innovation in the Community College
Southern Regional Education Board
Interested in exploring this topic further? Discuss it with your colleagues on the ACTE forums at www.acteonline.org/forum.aspx.
Susan Reese is a Techniques contributing writer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Title Annotation:||Promising Practices; Career and Technical Education|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2012|
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