As states expand their middle school Career Technical Education (CTE) options, they must consider if and how middle school CTE should begin to build technical skills among students to help prepare them for CTE in high school. Ohio offers a unique approach to middle school and high school CTE alignment by offering both exploratory courses and the option for students to take the equivalent of high school CTE introductory courses, which are a part of a state-approved program, in eighth grade.
In 2014, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed H.B. 487 into law, which required schools to provide CTE courses in seventh and eighth grades by the 2015-16 school year. By doing so, Ohio became one of the only states to require the availability of CTE courses to middle school students. Districts that do not want to offer middle school CTE courses must submit a public waiver to the Ohio Department of Education.
Since the passage of this law, Ohio has developed middle school CTE options that align strongly with high school CTE programs. Ohio achieves this alignment in part by using the same standards for middle school and high school CTE courses, as the state develops program-level, rather than course-level, standards. As part of the program of study approval process, districts must show vertical alignment between middle school and high school CTE programs.
While these standards ensure that the middle school CTE programs are aligned with high school CTE programs, the Ohio Department of Education also provides outlines for each course that is allowed at the middle school level, as well as guidance on implementation. While most middle school CTE courses require a teacher to hold only a standard teacher license and complete a short online course related to CTE, the teachers who teach the equivalent of the high school CTE courses in eighth grade must hold the appropriate CTE credential in the appropriate career field. Eighth graders who participate in the high school-equivalent courses may be required to take an end-of-course test to receive high school credit based on local rules and regulations.
Policy in Action
Allowing teachers to have any teacher licensure to teach most middle school CTE courses allows Ohio to have a broader pool of teachers and alleviates some concerns about teacher shortages, given the middle school CTE requirement. However, Ohio must still ensure that teachers possess the skills and knowledge to properly teach middle school CTE courses. To do so, Ohio mandates that all teachers who teach middle school CTE courses complete a middle school CTE validation process, which consists of online modules that overview the pedagogy of a CTE class and CTE standards.
Since the passage of the law mandating middle school CTE, Ohio has seen a dramatic increase in access to these programs, with 21,551 students participating in middle school CTE in 2015 and more than 73,728 students participating in middle school CTE in 2017. By mandating the availability of CTE options and ensuring vertical alignment between middle school and high school CTE, states can ensure expanded access to middle school CTE options and that more students begin to develop earlier the skills they need to succeed in high school CTE programs.
Legislation: H.B. 487
Policy Profile: Ohio: 2014 Education Reform Bill (HB487)
Website: CTE Middle Grade Programming
Considerations: Middle Grade Program Implementation Considerations
Resource: Expanding Middle School CTE to Ensure Lifelong Learner Success
Frequently Asked Questions: Middle School Career-Technical Expansion Frequently Asked Questions
Last Updated January 2019