Staff Reflection: Ensuring Quality for All Learners
Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager
High-quality CTE is always a focus area for Advance CTE, but in our Fall Meeting this year there was a special focus on how to use program approval and evaluation policies to ensure quality.
The first full day of the Meeting began with a panel discussion featuring Kim Green, Executive Director of Advance CTE; Marcie Mack, State CTE Director, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education; and Donna Lewelling, Deputy Director of the Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The panel, moderated by Kate Kreamer, began with a discussion around Advance CTE’s recently released Policy Benchmark Tool on CTE Program of Study approval policy. Marcie and Donna explained how they plan to use the tool in their states to assess current policies and make changes moving forward, particularly as the states prepare for a newly-reauthorized Perkins. The panelists then talked about program quality more broadly, including how and when to shut down programs that are not producing the right outcomes for learners.
Following the panel discussion, Danielle Mezera, formerly the State CTE Director in Tennessee, and I led a breakout discussion on program evaluation policy. In that session, we discussed with state leaders and organizational partners the crucial questions that high-quality evaluation policies should ask and answer. State leaders brainstormed about how specific evaluation data could be collected, using the Benchmark Tool as a thought-starter.
It was wonderful to be able to participate in these conversations during the meeting, and I look forward to helping our members continue those conversations now that the Fall Meeting has ended.
Staff Reflection: Focusing on Postsecondary CTE
Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director
Advance CTE’s meetings always strive to not only be engaging, relevant and informative – but also personalized to our diverse members, who represent every facet of the CTE system. Over the years, we have worked to ensure we have a strong balance of national and state experts, as well as sessions that resonate with participants who work in the secondary, postsecondary and workforce development spaces. This year, with some input from an informal “postsecondary member kitchen cabinet,” we made sure we had sessions on some of the top issues facing postsecondary leaders – including expanding dual/concurrent enrollment and the use of labor market information.
We also know that there is much those working in secondary can learn from those working in postsecondary (and vice versa), which is why we had a session that reflected on what worked – and didn’t work – around stakeholder engagement strategies under both the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to inform future stakeholder engagement strategies when Perkins is (finally) reauthorized.
Finally, given so much of the conference focused on high-quality CTE, we were excited to feature the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, the annual competition honoring institutions that strive for and achieve exceptional levels of success for all learners, including the current winner, Lake Area Technical Institute of South Dakota.
Ultimately, Advance CTE’s goal is to hold meetings and professional learning opportunities that reflect our vision for the future of CTE and put learner success first by ensuring aligned programs, aligned policies and aligned commitments to high-quality CTE.
Staff Reflection: Sharing Early Lessons from the New Skills for Youth Initiative
Austin Estes, State Policy Associate
Earlier this year it was announced that ten states were selected to participate in the New Skills for Youth initiative, an ambitious, national effort — supported by three-year, two-million dollar state grants from JPMorgan Chase — to transform career readiness systems, expand access to high-quality career pathways for all students, and develop replicable practices that could be emulated in other states. At Advance CTE’s Fall Meeting, participants got to see how the New Skills for Youth work is progressing and learn early lessons from the ten participating states. Sessions on the agenda, many of which pulled from work in the New Skills for Youth states or Advance CTE research funded by the initiative, included:
- Rural CTE Access and Quality: State leaders from Idaho and North Dakota led a meaningful discussion on strategies to serve learners in rural schools and colleges. Idaho’s program alignment initiative, which was recently featured in Advance CTE’s CTE on the Frontier series, brings together secondary and postsecondary educators to align learning competencies. Meanwhile, the Dakota Nursing Program in North Dakota demonstrates how states can leverage rural healthcare facilities to bring experts to rural communities.
- Strengthening the CTE Teacher Pipeline: Building upon Advance CTE’s recent research, the New Jersey Department of Education, the Center for Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes of Research (GTL), and Advance CTE led a workshop on recruiting and training industry experts. The workshop focused on work New Jersey is doing with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education to strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline. Advance CTE plans to continue this work through both the New Skills for Youth initiative as well as an ongoing workgroup in partnership with GTL.
- Communicating about Labor Market Information: Led by state leaders in the Kentucky Department of Education, this session highlighted Kentucky’s data innovations and helped participants better understand ways that labor market data could be used to inform program prioritization and design. To build upon lessons learned in the workshop, Advance CTE plans to release a guide in the coming weeks to help states communicate and leverage labor market information.
- Identifying and Measuring Credentials of Value: By 2020, two-thirds of all new jobs will require a postsecondary degree or training. Under the New Skills for Youth initiative, Education Strategy Group (ESG) has convened an expert workgroup to develop recommendations and strategies for states to meet this demand. At Advance CTE’s fall meeting, ESG previewed the workgroup’s recommendations and gathered reactions and input from state leaders in attendance.
This is just a slice of the work Advance CTE and partners are conducting under New Skills for Youth. As the initiative progresses, there will be ample opportunity to identify and elevate best practices from the participating states. New Skills for Youth is a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and the Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Staff Reflection: Effective Stakeholder Engagement
Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate, Federal Policy
This year’s Fall Meeting featured a session called, “Building Effective Stakeholder Engagement for Perkins V,” which was designed to share the best practices and lessons learned from states’ stakeholder engagement processes used during the state planning process for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The panelists provided many helpful pointers for states preparing for the stakeholder engagement process for a reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), but I’ll focus on just three:
- Building relationships and partnerships is beneficial to fostering statewide collaboration – don’t wait until a planning process is underway to find stakeholders or start the conversation with them
- When the time comes to gather feedback and input on a state plan, be sure to execute a strong communications plan to get the word out and include clear expectations about the feedback you seek
- Use the state’s vision for CTE as a driver for planning efforts, not the legislation that requires a plan
These three ideas stood out to me not only because they apply to Perkins and other statewide planning efforts, but also because they apply to advocacy planning. When building out an advocacy plan to accomplish a goal, it is unlikely that the work can be done by one person, agency or organization – building relationships and partnerships is key. A strong communications plan can help with this – stakeholders and partners won’t know they can contribute if they aren’t aware of the process. Or, as one panelist noted, “Asking who else should be involved is like saying “raise your hand if you’re not here.” Setting clear expectations about a request for a partner or stakeholder to weigh in or do something related to a plan is also important to the plan’s ultimate success. Lastly, advocacy, like stakeholder engagement, is most effective when it is proactive and informed by a larger vision, not limited to one time-bound initiative.