This post is written by Fleck Education, a Gold Level sponsor of the 2017 Advance CTE Fall Meeting.
Perhaps you have sat in a meeting like the one I attended recently. State leaders were once again discussing graduation requirements when one said, “What we really need is to bring back vocational education.”
As those at the table nodded in agreement, my mind quickly disregarded the outdated term for Career Technical Education (CTE) and shifted to the disappointing lack of awareness of CTE’s amazing accomplishments in our state. “Bring it back?” I said to myself, “Doesn’t he know how well it’s working?”
While trying hard not to dismiss the speaker as out of touch, my perspective slowly began to change. How much of his lack of awareness was my fault? And how many others – I wondered – were also unaware of the positive impact of our CTE programs? How is it that intelligent men and women who set important policies and honestly want to do the right thing for students are sometimes in the dark about our work?
Of course, this is not a new problem. When I was a State CTE Director, we had similar communication challenges. At that time, I naively presumed that once we expanded our communication efforts all would be better; that somehow, once you got the word out it stayed. But advocacy is not a website or news release that needs occasional tending. Effective CTE communication is an ever-changing entity that needs constant weeding, fertilizing and replanting.
What I had not considered when I was a State Director was our office’s responsibility for getting out ahead of the issue and the importance of advocacy as a proactive, front-end strategy instead of an after the fact approach. At my recent meeting, I wanted to raise my hand and explain – in what could have sounded like a condescending tone – all of the progress being made by CTE in the state. Doing so, however, would have only made me feel better and likely embarrassed the state leader.
As obvious as constantly advocating for CTE is, the important work is what is done beforehand. Advance CTE’s new Virtual CTE Institute, announced earlier this month, is a perfect example of this strategy seeking to “to raise awareness and create new advocates for high-quality CTE. “ So are annual state CTE summary reports like those Fleck Education has produced for the state of Indiana the last four years. When we changed the title from “CTE Review…” to “Career Readiness Report…” and added colorful graphics, more people took notice.
Perhaps your state is already ahead of the advocacy challenge. Use these questions as a gauge.
- Do you have a written, proactive state-level CTE advocacy plan?
- Do you have a process for quickly updating new legislators, agency heads or program chairs regarding what CTE is and what it does?
- Do you meet personally with new state and regional leaders – or their staff – to give a thumbnail progress report on CTE in your state?
- Do you produce and distribute an annual state/regional CTE summary report highlighting CTE student and program progress made in the last year? Does it include graphics or an executive summary with graphics and figures that are quick and easy to digest?
- Does your website include brief explanations of common CTE terms?
- Do you have a one page handout that explains CTE in a nutshell and highlights your most recent accomplishments?
If some of these questions give you pause, we can help.
At Fleck Education, our staff includes two former State CTE Directors as well as former CTE teachers, school counselors and district leaders who know the CTE landscape well. We combine our seasoned CTE perspective with practical solutions that both accelerate your CTE accomplishments and help your state address the challenges.
That way, more leaders in more meetings will know and support CTE even before the conversations begin.