The search for a high quality CTE

What is high-quality career and technical education? For years, policymakers, business leaders, education professionals and others have referenced and called for high-quality CTE programs. But until recently, there has been no comprehensive, evidence-based definition of this term.

To bring clarity to this conversation around high-quality CTE and help CTE educators and administrators develop and improve the quality of their CTE programs of study, the Association for Career and Technical Education® has created a comprehensive, research-based program of study framework and tested that framework through a pilot study. The ACTE® Quality CTE Program of Study Framework includes a companion program self-evaluation instrument, available in print and online, that is intended to be used by CTE educators and administrators as they seek to evaluate and improve their CTE programs.

The framework defines 92 criteria across the following 12 elements, a set of evidence-based standards that address the breadth of activities that impact CTE program delivery, implementation and quality:

  • Standards-aligned and Integrated Curriculum
  • Sequencing and Articulation
  • Student Assessment
  • Prepared and Effective Program Staff
  • Engaging Instruction
  • Access and Equity
  • Facilities, Equipment, Technology and Materials
  • Business and Community Partnerships
  • Student Career Development
  • Career and Technical Student Organizations
  • Work-based Learning
  • Data and Program Improvement

This voluntary tool can be used for program self-evaluation, program improvement and to encourage secondary-postsecondary collaboration. The framework’s elements and criteria are designed to be as mutually exclusive as possible. The online program self-evaluation instrument can provide automatically calculated scores and direct users to the High-quality CTE Tools online library for areas identified as needing improvement. This library includes strategies, case studies, professional development models and toolkits to help practitioners develop and support success within each element.

The framework and self-evaluation may be especially useful related to new local needs assessment provisions required in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), the newly reauthorized version of the federal law supporting a system of CTE throughout the nation. State and local CTE providers are currently developing plans to implement the federal law at the local level, including the comprehensive local needs assessment.

Additionally, ACTE is incorporating the quality framework into its efforts to recognize and disseminate CTE best practices through our professional development activities and awards program. This is the first of several blogs that will explore some of the elements within the Quality CTE Program of Study Framework. You can find more details and tools online at www.acteonline.org/high-quality-CTE.

About the author:
Stephen DeWitt

Stephen DeWitt

Stephen DeWitt is the Deputy Executive Director for the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). His role includes developing strategic partnerships to advance the association’s mission, and oversight of policy development, advocacy, media relations and research activities. A primary focus of his work at ACTE has been promoting career and technical education’s value related to school improvement and student career readiness.

He has 20+ years in the public policy arena.  Prior to joining ACTE, Mr. DeWitt directed government and public relations for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. His role included a strong focus on secondary school improvement and leadership development activities. Previous work also includes employment with the State of Florida’s Governor’s office and Florida Department of Education, and APCO Worldwide, a Washington DC-based public affairs and global communication firm.