ACTE Techniques January 2012 : Page 21

BY NATALIE STIPANOVIC, ROB SHUMER, AND SAM STRINGFIELD A merican businesses and industries have long identi-fied shortages in key career and technical areas—some of these areas require two-or four-year college degrees, whereas others simply require industry certifications. Career and technical education (CTE) has the potential to play a central role in filling these gaps. The current Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins IV), reauthorized in 2006, seeks to prepare individuals for both college and careers. Programs of Study (POS) are a central component of Perkins IV. Developed to provide a systematic means of connecting secondary and postsecond-ary programs, POS connect secondary and postsecondary institutions, include rigorous academic content aligned with standards, lead to industry-recognized credentials, and provide options for dual credit or concurrent enrollment. In order to evaluate the impact of POS, the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE) commissioned three longi-tudinal, field-based studies that focus on efforts being made to implement POS across the country. In 2009-2010, the NRCCTE conducted a cross-site evalua-tion of these three studies. This evaluation gave us the opportunity to explore lessons learned regarding POS across three schools that were identified as having a high level of POS implementation. Our goal was to compare common elements across the schools in order to uncover key components that could be shared with others actively involved in developing more effective POS. During the study, we conducted more than 40 interviews with a variety of school personnel, including CTE and aca-demic teachers, school counselors, CTE and high school administrators, and state directors of CTE. We also conducted interviews with business and community representatives in order to understand the relationships between the schools and local industry. Interview data were evalu-ated using a computer-based qualitative program that generated six predominant themes that describe what highly imple-mented POS look like. Six Central Findings of Highly Implemented POS • Engagement: At each site, school personnel talked about the power of POS to engage students in learn-ing, primarily by connecting academ-ics to meaningful learning experiences through engagement in work-based and project-based learning. POS were described as helping students “learn by doing” by getting them involved in activities and environments that allowed them to engage in applicable skills. • A system developed to support learning: POS were established to ensure that learning—both academic and skill-based—was the primary activity of students. Learning was supported with appropriate systems. For example, block schedules were implemented to allow students suf-ficient time to learn content in greater depth; academic and CTE teachers were provided with planning time to engage collaboratively in lesson and project planning. • Certification of knowledge and skills: As mandated by Perkins, CTE components were supposed to result in some kind of industry-recognized certification. Students were also asked to demonstrate competence in aca-demic subjects by applying academic knowledge in CTE contexts. • Seamless education: The impor-“Developed to provide a systematic means of connecting secondary and postsecondary programs, POS connect secondary and postsecondary institutions, include rigorous academic content aligned with standards, lead to industry-recognized credentials, and provide options for dual credit or concurrent enrollment.” tance of developing a seamless edu-cational system connecting primary and secondary education to college was articulated across the sites. POS at these sites actively linked high schools with community colleges, ensuring that students engaged in a series of courses and activities that taught them about careers and the application of academics in real-world contexts. • Increased understanding and respect of CTE: Although CTE was traditionally seen as a “dumping ground” for less able students, POS appeared to be changing that percep-tion at our sites. Students of all abilities were increasingly attracted to CTE, especially when several dual credit-earning options provided parity with highly regarded academic programs like Advanced Placement courses. • High-quality teachers made a difference in the delivery of POS: Januar y 2012 Techniques PHOTO By ISTOCK.COM www.acteonline.org 21

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