Throughout the country there has been a push toward Career Technical Education (CTE), programs and pathways that provide students with the academic and technical skills they need to succeed in future careers.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, California served 772,350 CTE high school students and 892,396 postsecondary students in the 2015-16 school year in more than 16 career clusters or concentrations.
Proponents of CTE argue that it helps close the workforce skills gaps and prepares students for their future in a changing workforce and career climate.
In the William S. Hart Union High School District, staff and administrators provide students with nearly 30 career pathways through its Career and College Readiness Department. Students involved in the programs participate in career preparation courses, job shadowing opportunities, internships and field trips.
The program is headed by Mariane Doyle, director of Career Technical and Adult Education, who was recently appointed to act as the CTE Council Chair of Region 15 for the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) in May.
“I’m really excited to represent the region and hopefully bring attention to the work that’s happening in Region 15,” Doyle said. “There are periodic meetings and right now we’re engaged in a number of things from a policy perspective so there’s quite a bit that’s done online.”
In this role, Doyle will work with administrators from across the state to address changes and challenges facing CTE, including funding, accountability, pathways and more.
“I think the biggest concerns we have are looking at the accountability, making sure we have an active voice in what the accountability structure looks like for career and college readiness,” she said. “And also having an active voice in what is the best way to fund ongoing career pathways.”
A concern for administrators throughout the country is the potential cuts to CTE’s federal funding.
An earlier version of the administration’s 2018 budget proposed a 15 percent cut to Perkins Grants—the primary source of funding that supports CTE—however, it is unknown whether the cuts will be finalized in the 2018 budget.
The House of Representatives passed a bill, Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century, to reauthorize those funds through 2023, but it is unknown whether the bill will also pass through the Senate.
“That federal funding has historically really supported that ongoing professional development and ongoing support for replenishing supplies and equipment and these really expensive programs,” Doyle said.
According to Doyle, the Hart District is already underfunded through Perkins where it receives about $260,000. The anticipated cuts would lower that level to about $215,000.
“Really the only source of funding that’s dedicated to this work now is Perkins,” Doyle said.
To offset the costs of CTE equipment, materials, repairs and professional development, the Hart District—as well as others throughout the state—has relied on grant funding from Gov. Jerry Brown, called the California Career Technical Education Incentive Grant.
“The governor has been very gracious in providing grant funding,” Doyle said. “It’s been an extensive amount of funding that has really helped us build programs and bring them up to par so we’re really offering industry-standard facilities and equipment, and providing professional development so our teachers feel like they are getting the relevant training.”
But how will districts throughout the state continue to sustain those programs after the grant funding is no longer there? That is what Doyle and her fellow members on the CTE Council are working to answer.
“One of the ways we’ve talked about is leveraging those partnerships with businesses because, at the end of the day, it is intelligent on the part of businesses to look at the growing workforce in the high school,” Doyle said.
The administrators are working to form partnerships and sponsorships with businesses so they can create their own “home-grown workforce” through internships, education and in-kind donations.
“Of course we’ll still apply for grants… But grants are temporary solutions to a permanent situation so I would say those partnerships are critical,” Doyle said.
For example, in Fresno Union Bank opened up a branch inside of a high school classroom where students work as tellers and complete bank transactions and other relevant work.
“It’s almost an in-kind donation of their space and their support in the training,” Doyle said. “That’s what we’re really more interested in is partnership.”
Another idea is to use funding from the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to “earmark” a dollar amount for college and career readiness.
To utilize funding from the LCFF, the state needs to develop an accountability model that supports the work of school districts while providing measurements to stakeholders about college and career ready students.
Members of a workgroup within the Association of California School Administrators are meeting to finalize such an accountability model through the College and Career Indicator on the California School Dashboard, the state’s newest performance and accountability tool released in March.
Doyle is not involved with the workgroup but is providing her input into the development of the accountability model so it includes factors to examine both college readiness and career readiness.
“One of the items of contention for me, is college and career as being an ‘and’ proposition,” she said. “Unfortunately right now the way the indicator is written it looks like more of an ‘or.’ There are a couple indicators in there that do a good job of blending the two.”
Doyle said she would like to see the indicators use items that show both college and career readiness—like completing a career pathway and the A-G subject requirements for the University of California and California State University—to measure accountability.
“To me is a great representation of someone who has done their due diligence to be prepared to go into college and done some works into career preparation,” she said. “You have to do what it takes to be prepared for college and you have to do what it takes to be ready for your career.”
Doyle said the next big step in CTE is something called Linked Learning, where districts create more integration between academics and career pathways through immersive learning and experiences.
“A good example of this is the Health Science Academy at Valencia High School,” she said of the school’s program that allows students to take courses and electives that prepare them for a future in the health care industry. “It is demonstrating relevance from that academic content to something that’s tangible, which is that career field they’re so interested in.”
Another big push is for community support for a broad approach to future careers and interdisciplinary learning
“The careers we’re preparing them for don’t exist yet so that’s why this integration piece is so critical to me and this Linked Learning approach is so critical to me,” Doyle said. “It’s not going to be until our kids see the relevance of each of their academic subjects to the bigger picture that they’re going to be able to go beyond finite career directions.”