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Common Career Technical Core: Standards for a Stronger Future

Career and technical education helps train workers for jobs of the future. (LL28/iStockPhoto)

Career and technical education helps train workers for jobs of the future. (LL28/iStockPhoto)

By Kimberly Green

The link between a person’s education and success in their career has grown stronger in today’s global economy. The trend is only expected to intensify, adding pressure onto education systems to teach students rigorous academics and skills that match the demands of the 21st century.

In June 2012, Career Technical Education (CTE) State Directors released the Common Career Technical Core (CCTC) —a states-led initiative to ensure that CTE programs are consistent and of high-quality across the nation. The CCTC are program-level CTE standards ultimately designed to provide all students—youths and adults—with equal access to a comprehensive education that helps them succeed in their lives and careers.

Common Career Technical Core
The Common Career Technical Core (CCTC) is a states-led initiative to develop high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) standards for what students should know and be able to do at the end of a CTE program and to be career ready.

The CCTC includes a set of standards for each of the 16 Career Clusters™, and their corresponding Career Pathways, that define what students should know and be able to do after completing instruction in a program of study. The CCTC was developed to align with other college- and career-ready standard efforts, such as the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics, while also articulating industry expectations in each of the 16 Career Clusters™.

The CCTC also includes an overarching set of Career Ready Practices that apply to all programs of study. The Career Ready Practices are 12 statements that address the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that all students, regardless of their career path, should acquire to become career ready in the global economy. Here are examples of these practices:

  • Act as a responsible and contributing citizen and employee.
  • Model integrity, ethical leadership and effective management.
  • Work productively in teams while using cultural global competence.

We know that every student in the 21st century global society must have both the skills and perspectives to navigate the dynamic playing field. The CCTC are coupled with the Career Ready Practices to ensure students are taught to comprehensive standards that lead them to be well-rounded, successful individuals.

CTE: The Connection Between the Economy and Education

This is not the first time CTE has transformed to keep pace with the changes in education and the economy. In the early 1900s, CTE made significant shifts when the nation emerged from an agrarian into an industrial economy. Then, CTE programs helped to train individuals with the skills needed to boost our nation into the 20th century and to secure a global leadership role.

The 21st century also has inspired changes in CTE. In 2000, a U.S. Department of Education grant designed to support the development of knowledge and skills statements for the federally identified 16 Career Clusters™, was the impetus for CTE State Directors across the nation to come together and support the development of the Career Clusters™—a common organizing framework for CTE programs nationwide. That decision by the CTE State Directors in 2000 was the first states-led initiative to defining common expectations for CTE.

Today, all states use Career Clusters™ as an organizing tool for CTE. However, the scope of adoption varies from state to state and largely reflects state economic and workforce, not national or global needs. And while the Career Clusters™ project certainly advanced the image, scope and expectations of CTE, the knowledge and skills statements that were associated with the Career Clusters™ had less consistent adoption.

In 2010, the State Directors saw it was time to revisit the conversation about common expectations for CTE. Economic, social and political winds had shifted since the first effort to establish common standards for CTE programs. In the spring, State Directors charted the next steps for CTE in Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education. The new vision recognizes that CTE is a resource that can help the United States remain competitive in the global economy.

That vision is framed by five principles, which have been adopted by organizations including the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). The principles of the CTE vision are:

  • CTE is critical to ensuring that the United States leads in global competitiveness.
  • CTE actively partners with employers to design and provide high-quality, dynamic programs.
  • CTE prepares students to succeed in further education and careers.
  • CTE is delivered through comprehensive programs of study aligned to The National Career Clusters™ Framework.
  • CTE is a results-driven system that demonstrates a positive return on investment.

Common expectations for CTE

The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) realized that in order to achieve the ideals of our new vision, CTE would require standards to frame the definition of consistent, high-quality programs. Hence, we united around a movement to develop the CCTC because we believe that all students should have equal access to a high-quality education and career opportunities.

Forty-two states, Washington, DC, and Palau participated in the development of the CCTC. The multi-step process incorporated input at various stages from approximately 3,500 teachers, business and industry experts, administrators, and researchers from across the nation. The CCTC is a product of a collection of assessed state and industry standards and input from experts who know what students require to be career ready.

After significant input from working groups appointed by the participating states, a draft of the CCTC was released in May 2012 for public comment. An independent education research firm facilitated the process to make certain the CCTC include the best input from business and industry, and education experts. The state-appointed working groups evaluated the public comments, made revisions as appropriate and arrived at a consensus agreement of the content of the CCTC standards. The standards were formally approved by the NASDCTEc Board of Directors in June 2012.

NASDCTEc will launch an initiative to coordinate a gap analysis to compare each state’s current course-level standards against the CCTC program-level standards. Based on the gap analysis, each state will decide whether or not to adopt the CCTC and identify a plan for aligning current state expectations to the CCTC. The gap analysis will be conducted by a team of third-party experts to ensure quality and consistency across the states.

Across the nation, students, regardless of where they live, should have equal access to an educational experience that prepares them with the knowledge and skills to succeed. The CCTC establishes a clear, common and high-level standard for our CTE programs and how we, as a nation, should prepare our future workforce.

Kimberly Green is the executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium