Vocational education has traditionally been associated with a watered-down set of academic standards. Even more rigorous Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have often been seen as a pathway for students who struggle with core courses to prevent them from dropping out entirely. The most recent reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 emphasizes rigorous academic standards for all students, including those in CTE programs, and the recent college- and career-readiness trend mirrors this goal. CTE is no longer to be treated as an alternative or easier pathway, but as a mechanism for making relevant the same academic content delivered in traditional college preparatory classrooms. CTE students are expected to master the same mathematics and literacy standards as any other student, but are provided more opportunities to practice those skills in a setting that is adapted to their interests and their potential career paths.
The Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) recently released a definition of career-ready that takes an even broader point of view. They believe that students who do not continue on into postsecondary education need to develop a wider set of skills in high school. In addition to academic skills, ACTE recommends that students develop job-specific technical skills that will facilitate both on-the-job learning and career success.
Furthermore, ACTE suggests that students need to develop employability skills, including professionalism, responsibility, and the capacity to work in teams. ACTE’s definition presents a comprehensive illustration of the skills a graduate needs in order to be successful in the workplace. However, many of these intangible skills certainly wouldn’t be amiss on a college campus either. Now that CTE programs have begun to adopt curriculum from rigorous academic courses, our next step may be to examine how successful CTE models can be integrated across all high school programs and curriculum, including traditional college preparatory programs.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.