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It’s Up to States to Deliver on New CTE Law

President Trump signed into law a bipartisan effort to improve the quality of CTE programs but the scope of their success now depends on the states.

July 31, 2018

At a Glance

President Trump signed into law a bipartisan effort to improve the quality of CTE programs but the scope of their success now depends on the states.

Contributors Topics

President Trump todaysigned into law a bipartisan bill to improve the quality of career andtechnical education (CTE) programs for high school students, and the scope oftheir success now depends on the states.

JFF welcomes the new law,known as the StrengtheningCareer and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, and its bipartisan support. The long-awaited update of the Carl D. Perkins Careerand Technical Education Act increases the nation’s expectations of CTE programsat a critical time. We believe the law can play a pivotal role inclosing our nation’s skills gap and filling many of the 6million job openings that require some form of postsecondaryeducation or credential.

It is now up to the states to use the current energy behind CTE to their advantage.

They must assess how theirprograms stack up against the new law’s provisions and their own vision forpreparing students for college, career, and citizenship.

States must ask themselves toughquestions, such as:

  • How do our CTE programs deliver on theirpromise to improve students’ career readiness, expand access to postsecondarycredentials, and provide opportunity for long-term career advancement?
  • How can we incorporate work-based learningopportunities, which help prepare students of all backgrounds for the jobs ofthe future?
  • How can we provide coursework that is rigorousand reflects the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in a chosencareer path?

States should also consider keyequity questions to ensure their CTE programs are of high qualityand accessible to all students.

Fortunately, not all stateshave to start from scratch. When the new law goes into effect on July, 1, 2019, they can build on their established workand learn from thosewho are leading effective strategies. Delaware and Tennessee are amonga handful of states who’ve made strides in key areas.

For example, the Tennessee Department of Education’s Office of CTE performs annual reviews of CTE programs and courses to ensure they align with regional labor market needs and makes adjustments when necessary. The state also conducts reviews of postsecondary CTE programs and certificate offerings from community colleges, technical colleges, and four-year universities to determine which should be continued, added, or expanded.

Delaware’s CTE programs of study include college coursework, work-based learning opportunities, and industry certifications where available and appropriate. They also provide professional development opportunities for CTE educators to ensure that instruction is up to date on academic and industry standards. 

The Perkins Act reauthorization also provides a major step forward in changing the sometimes negative perceptions of CTE programs across the country. Previously known as “vocational education,” these programs have a long history of being viewed as an alternative to a rigorous academic pathway—reserved for students deemed “not college material.”

To the contrary, excellent CTE programs prepare students with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in both college and a career. A number of states and regions are working to reverse such misconceptions. The strong policymaker support for CTE, signaled in the passage of the new law, can help educators and parents demonstrate that CTE is a strong option for all students.

States should continue to build on what works and make improvements where needed. JFF has seen effective CTE programs and helped expand them through our Pathways to Prosperity Network. We look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education and with states to implement the new CTE law.