Friday, September 23, 2011

Career and Technical Education: Innovation and Integration

In 2009, Governor Steve Beshear created the Task Force on Transforming Education in Kentucky (TEK). Over a 15-month period, the TEK Task Force met 10 times and hosted a statewide community forum in which more than 1,500 Kentuckians shared their views on improving education in the Commonwealth. On February 21, 2011, the TEK Task Force released a report, Breaking New Ground: Final report of the Governor’s Task Force on Transforming Education in Kentucky, which contained 35 recommendations derived from this process.

One of the recommendations made in that report called for the Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Commissioner of Education to establish a steering committee to develop a comprehensive statewide plan to implement a new model of secondary career and technical education (CTE) with an emphasis on innovation and integrating core academics, 21st-century skills, project-based learning and the establishment of full-time CTE programs. This plan was intended to be implemented by the 2012 General Assembly.

This week, the steering committee reviewed the first draft of a discussion paper that addresses the recommendations from the TEK Task Force. The discussion paper included the recommendations from six study groups. These groups were focused on sector strategies; curriculum and programs; assessment and accountability; professional development; operations; and Perkins fund management. The study groups included stakeholders from across the CTE spectrum.

Recently, I had the opportunity to review CTE programs in China and Brazil. These countries are among the fastest-growing in jobs that have a positive impact on the economy. In Brazil, I was particularly interested in the rapid decision-making process to implement CTE programs that meet the sector needs of the country. Given that Brazil is hosting the 2016 Olympics, there is a huge unmet need for construction workers and other skilled workers to address infrastructure needs for the Olympic games. Through this focus on career and technical education and alignment with the jobs that are needed, Brazil is enlarging and strengthening its middle class.

While traveling to Brazil, I read Tom Friedman’s new book – That Used to be Us. Friedman promotes the theory that many of the countries (China, Brazil, India and Russia) have taken a page from the U.S. in promoting education, infrastructure and innovation, while the U.S. seems to be mired in a political quagmire of inaction. As I was watching the excitement and commitment to career and technical education in Brazil, I could not help but think Friedman got the title of the book right.

I hope that our General Assembly will follow the recommendations from the CTE committees and integrate/elevate career technical education in this state so that Kentucky graduates are prepared for the world that they will face and the jobs of the future.

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