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President Signs CTE Bill

Updated: July 31, 2018

On Tuesday, July 31, President Donald J. Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, instituting significant changes to federal education law.

As EducationWeek reports, the $1.2 billion reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that Congress approved on July 25 allows states to set their own goals for career and technical education programs without the education secretary’s approval and requires them to make progress toward those goal.

Engineering, technology, computer science, and dual-enrollment programs – along with their students, particularly those from underrepresented groups in STEM – could be among the biggest beneficiaries, according to Lewis-Burke Associates. ASEE’s federal partners.

Indeed, the legislation specifies that Perkins funds may used “to expand, develop, or implement programs designed to increase opportunities for students to take rigorous courses in coding or computer science subject areas,” and for “integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, including computer science education, with career and technical education.” There is also support for the “integration of arts and design skills, and for hands-on learning” – particularly for girls, minorities, special-needs students, and other populations underrepresented in STEM.

Last reauthorized in 2006, the Perkins CTE Act is the primary source of federal funding to states for career and technical education at the secondary and postsecondary level. The money typically goes to support teacher professional development, courses of study, instructional materials and equipment, and other uses at high schools, technical schools, and community colleges.

Studies have shown a variety of benefits when students pursue CTE  – including higher high school graduation rates and greater motivation. The Southern Regional Education Board’s High Schools that Work consortium has data, success stories, and guides to best practices. Moreover, in many states and school districts, engineering and technology courses fall under the CTE umbrella. In New York, for example, which introduced a new course in 1995 called “Technology Principles of Engineering: An MST Approach,” engineering-related courses are a subset of technology education courses. The state education agency underscores that preparation for engineering bachelor’s degree programs requires a strong foundation in math and science, and recommends that districts offer and encourage students to take these courses.

The new bill redefines CTE and specifies all courses at the secondary level must be aligned with rigorous state academic standards identified Every Student Succeeds Act and culminate in a recognized credential. Moreover, it requires states and school districts to ensure that traditionally underserved students and special populations receive the supports they need to access and succeed in CTE programs.

In addition to boosting the quality of CTE programs, the new bill expands funding to the middle grades and promotes career exploration in middle school. It also improves the recruitment and retention of highly effective CTE teachers, and supports the integration of professional development opportunties for academic and CTE teachers, notes Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the son of an ironworker and longtime CTE advocate. Indeed, states now may use Perkins grant funding to establish CTE-focused statewide governor’s academies like those Kaine started as Virginia’s governor.

In addition, proponents contend, revised provisions around credit transfers will accelerate dual enrollment. The AACC reports such programs have grown steadily over the last 15 years, with an estimated 1.3 million high school students taking college credit courses in the 2015-2016 academic year. Engineering and other career academies could see a boost as well.

The new bill also creates a small new set-aside – $50,000 or 0.1 percent of funds, whichever is less – to increase diversity and inclusion. Along with such “special populations” as English-language learners and single parents, these CTE recruitment funds may now be used for outreach to homeless individuals and children of active-duty military personnel.

There are provisions that could boost career awareness and apprenticeship programs as well. Research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that many students lack information that would help them be prepared for the workforce.  Several of its recommendations for improving job skills and readiness – notably better flows of data and strengthening career centers, reflect goals outlined in the CTE bill.

If President Trump signs the bill into law, as he has indicated he would, its provisions would take effect July 1, 2019, beginning with a transition year to allow time for planning, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education, an advocacy group.

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