State Boards Align CTE with Employer Needs, Discuss Perkins V

By Valerie Norville

Even as the economy rebounded toward full employment, states continue to wrestle with the problem that a high school diploma alone still fails to set most young people up for good, high-paying jobs to the extent it did in previous generations. Given that many state boards of education set graduation requirements in their states, many boards have looked for new ways to increase the value of their diplomas. In 2018, they focused on career and technical education (CTE) and skill building in order to better prepare their students for fruitful work.

State board agendas shared common themes over the past year: They put a premium on convening district leaders and regional business leaders for discussions on how to align classroom instruction with local employers’ needs. And they discussed how to leverage funds from the reauthorized Perkins Act (nicknamed Perkins V) to further their CTE goals.

For example, the Maine State Board of Education has a Career and Technical Education Committee, which reported to the board regularly on activities that align with four priorities in the board’s strategic plan under its goal of strengthening CTE: to direct a greater portion of CTE funds toward instruction and instructionally related services, double enrollment in CTE programs by 2020, introduce CTE instruction into Maine’s middle schools, and better align secondary and postsecondary CTE offerings and programs. Committee members expressed a desire to leverage Perkins funds to achieve these priorities, including through articulation agreements with community colleges. The committee discussed CTE pilots in middle schools and convening a CTE summit with diverse stakeholders in 2019.

In 2014, the Washington state legislature passed a bill that directed the state board to review a list of CTE course equivalency frameworks developed by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, provide an opportunity for public comment, and approve the list. Districts identified courses as aligning with both career standards and academic core subject learning standards. For example, a course in residential carpentry that aligns with a board-approved framework also qualifies as a credit in geometry. Such courses let students meet two graduation requirements with one course. At its May meeting, the board approved two new frameworks to add to a list of three dozen it has approved since 2015.

No other state board put CTE on its agenda as frequently as Indiana, which discussed it at most meetings in 2018. The Indiana State Board of Education had approved a Graduation Pathways Panel recommendation in December 2017 to expand the options for graduation in Indiana. At its July 2018 meeting, the board approved guidance for districts that wish to propose locally created pathways toward graduation, which are intended to give schools and districts flexibility in meeting student and regional employers’ needs. Public hearings and focus groups in Indiana informed the initiative.

Starting with the class of 2023, students graduating from Indiana public high schools must attain one of four diplomas approved by the state board; must show that they have met a work-based, project-based, or service learning requirement; and must complete at least one of nine means for demonstrating they have “postsecondary competencies.” One of these nine options is completing a locally created pathway that has earned state board approval. The board showcased early entrants for these pathways at meetings throughout 2018, and it is compiling an online library of them. One pathway, proposed by Wa-Nee Community Schools, focuses on recreational vehicle construction through an industry certification recognized by local employer Thor Industries and also includes Ivy Tech Community College, Vincennes University, and a community organization as partners. The Indiana board has also discussed how its CTE work might inform revisions to its state plan for implementing Perkins V.

In addition, the North Carolina board celebrated a steep rise in recent years in students receiving industry-valued credentials, and at its June meeting it elected to review CTE curriculum changes annually to keep pace with changes in business and industry demand in the state.

Tennessee continued to add to its list of statewide dual-credit courses in 2018, with its board approving those that have undergone a thorough process to ensure that learning objectives and assessments meet postsecondary expectations.

Valerie Norville is NASBE’s editorial director. She can be reached at