The State of Career Technical Education: (Different) Standards for All

The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) recently undertook a large-scale research project to address the not-so-simple question of: how do states approach Career Technical Education (CTE) standards? With the increased attention given to CTE as a necessary strategy for engaging students, preparing our future workforce, and remaining competitive in a global economy, NASDCTEc believes it is important that stakeholders have a solid understanding of the system they are supporting.

By collecting CTE standards-related documents from every state in the nation, as well as Washington, D.C. and four U.S. territories; sifting through the policy information; and engaging a third-party research firm to conduct alignment studies of each state’s CTE standards to a common benchmark, we now have a baseline of understanding  what state CTE standards look like, how they are adopted and implemented, and where they need to go to meet broader goals of the college- and career-ready agenda.

The resulting publication “The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of State CTE Standards,” found that, unsurprisingly, over 40 states developed or approved statewide CTE standards at the secondary level.  Also not surprising is that only 15 states and territories develop or approve statewide CTE standards at the postsecondary level. Somewhat disheartening, only two states in the country have fully aligned standards that bridge CTE learning at the secondary and postsecondary levels (although another seven states have some degree of alignment across systems). While most states have programs of study in place – course sequences that include both secondary and postsecondary experiences – few have statewide standards on which these rigorous pathways are based.

Finally, when comparing each state’s standards to the Common Career Technical Core (CCTC), a set of benchmark standards developed for and by states that designate what students need to know and be able to do after completing a multi-course program of study, the report found significant misalignments. These gaps are largely driven by the fact that so few states have statewide postsecondary-level CTE expectations and that the majority of secondary CTE standards are occupationally- or job-focused, whereas the CCTC take a more expansive view of career readiness, focusing on those end of program-of-study competencies.

Looking forward, the report puts forward four next steps:

  • Fill the postsecondary CTE standards gap,
  • Implement CTE standards with fidelity,
  • Continue to make progress on programs of study, and
  • Implement the Common Career Technical Core.

For more information, please click here to access a full NASDSCTEc webinar recording which explores the report in further detail.

Kate Blosveren is the associate executive director at the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, a lead partner of the College and Career Readiness and Success Center. 

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