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Building the CTE of the future

New York Teacher
Sterling Roberson

Sterling Roberson

Career and technical education has changed tremendously over the last several years. Once regarded as remedial programs for students who couldn’t succeed in a traditional academic environment, today’s CTE programs are demanding and cutting-edge courses of study that enrich the lives and education of all our students lucky enough to access them.

CTE isn’t “shop.” Even the fields traditionally associated with “vocational” education — like automotive repair — are radically different and far more complex today than they were just a decade ago. And then, there are the myriad new fields — ranging from computer technology to robotics to aeronautics — that contemporary CTE also encompasses. It’s a whole new ball game.

Today we’re building the CTE of the future: career and technical education for the 21st century.

That’s why I’m so pleased to announce that the UFT will, in partnership with the AFT’s Albert Shanker Institute, co-host a conference, Fulfilling the Promise of a Quality Education for All: 21st Century Career-Technical Education, that will bring together CTE educators, experts and industry partners here at UFT headquarters on Oct. 10 and 11 to map out our vision for the future of career and technical education.

The purpose of the gathering will be threefold: to discuss how we can 1. create and sustain more high-quality CTE programs; 2. align existing CTE programs with the new Common Core Learning Standards; and 3. develop new economic opportunities for our students through CTE programming. Our goal is for conference participants to share their expertise and experience in CTE policy, practice and research and to deepen their understanding of how quality CTE can expand educational and career horizons for our students.

Central to our discussions will be the new grade 9-14 school model pioneered by Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology Early College HS, which over the course of six years sees students graduate with a Regents diploma, a technical endorsement in their chosen field from the State Education Department, an associate’s degree from CUNY and work experience. P-TECH graduates are also first in line for job openings with IBM, the school’s industry partner.

President Obama singled out the school in his State of the Union address this past January as an example for all CTE schools to follow, and his remarks put the grade 9-14 model into the national limelight, with school districts across the country seeking to emulate it.

Here in New York City, the Department of Education has already launched two new schools that will employ the grade 9-14 model this year. Energy Tech HS in Queens will partner with Con Edison, National Grid and LaGuardia Community College, while the Bronx’s Health, Education and Research Occupations HS will partner with Montefiore Medical Center and Hostos Community College. In September 2014, another three such schools will open in the city and another 15 will open across the rest of the state.

The significance of these programs cannot be overstated. By allowing students to earn both academic and technical credentials at the same time, these schools open up multiple pathways to success for their graduates, who are equally prepared to pursue a four-year college degree or to immediately enter the world of work. Indeed, for many students, being able to work part time in their field allows them to support themselves as they pursue a four-year degree that would have otherwise been out of their financial reach.

The grade 9-14 model is the wave of the future, and I’m very glad that the DOE and the State Education Department are supporting its expansion. But the schools they are opening are just a start. Expanding access to grade 9-14 programs even further is going to take a lot of work, but that’s the challenge we face. Our hope is that, ultimately, all students who want to enroll in a six-year CTE program will have the chance.

CTE has evolved. It’s renewing the promise of education for young people engaged in it. It’s an exciting and rewarding option for all our students. Now we need to see that they all have the opportunity to participate in it.

Related Topics: VPerspective, CTE
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