The Promise of a Quality Education for All: 21st Century Career and Technical Education

On October 10-11, 2013, NAPE Director of Public Policy, Lisa R. Ransom, attended a 2-day conference hosted by the United Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute, which provided the opportunity to develop and support quality CTE programs and to call upon key policymakers and stakeholders to support and expand the role of CTE in U.S. education. Highlights of the conference included:

Conference participants shared their expertise and experience in CTE policy, practice, and research to deepen their understanding of how quality CTE can expand educational and career horizons for all students, as featured in an opening presentation on CTE and Education Reform: Breaking Down Silos, by Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers and Albert Shanker Institute.

New York City is the home of many innovative CTE programs, and conference participants visited schools to discuss those programs with educators and students and to see for themselves how CTE is renewing the promise of education for young people. The conference encouraged raising awareness among educators and policymakers of the vital role that rigorous, applied learning is playing in opening career and education doors to students. The conference stressed the importance of comprehensive community involvement: how collaboration among community groups—business, labor, educators, and government—is the critical element in making quality CTE work for students and the broader society.  The conference participants also considered a draft statement of recommendations that describes what needs to be done to develop and support quality CTE programs and calls upon key stakeholders to support and expand the role of CTE in U.S. education.

The session titled Career and Technical Education as an Avenue of Opportunity: Overcoming Perceptions of Race, Class, Gender and Tracking focused on promoting equity in STEM and CTE as part of early childhood education. The panelists included Vanda Belusic-Vollor, Executive Director, Office of Postsecondary Readiness, New York City Department of Education; Ronald Ferguson, Senior Lecturer on Education and Public Policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Kennedy School; Clifford Janey, Senior Weismann Fellow, Bankstreet College of Education; former State District Superintendent, Newark Public Schools; former Superintendent, District of Columbia; and Albert Shanker Institute Board Member; and John King, former New York State Education Commissioner.

Belusic-Vollor emphasized the need to recruit the right teachers and to broaden support of professional development. She also addressed the moral obligation of teachers to young people; clinically rich teacher preparation; training in classroom management; and parent/teacher conference engagement.  Ferguson discussed (1) the need to establish consistent standards, asking that, although CTE “can” work, how often does it work?; (2) whether CTE is the new answer to dealing with students that don’t perform well; (3) teacher ecology of child and youth development; and (4) the climate of professional press among adults—they drive out colleagues that don’t get the work done, i.e., peer accountability. Janey focused his remarks on the development and benefits of establishing an alumni association for CTE graduates. He also noted the immense value of having a hands-on faculty (including counselors) willing to conduct student-parent home visits. Finally, he addressed the need for the teaching of dispositions, that is, the practice of teachers engaging students without allowing their own dispositions to get in the way.