Arizona Expands Career And Technical Education

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 5:00am
Updated: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 - 2:18pm

In 2017, 49 states passed 241 laws related to career and technical education (CTE), a dramatic increase compared to the past five years, according to a new analysis.

Arizona was one of the states spurred by the Every Student Succeeds Act to enact laws, executive orders, boards of education actions and budget provisions that expand and provide funding for CTE programs.

In 2017, Arizona enacted policies on CTE funding, accountability, industry-recognized credentials, dual enrollment, work-based learning, STEM and equity. However, the state didn’t pass legislation in areas where other states saw gains, such as graduation requirements, teacher certification or governance.

“The reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act in the very end of 2015 meant states spent 2016 building out their programs and 2017 implementing them,” said Kate Kreamer, the deputy executive director of CTE for Advance CTE, a nonprofit representing state leaders of CTE programs.

She said the two biggest nationwide trends were in funding and accountability.

Arizona has reversed course. In 2015, the state Legislature voted to decrease funding for a program known as Joint Technical Education Districts. Since then the funding has not only been restored, but the program has been expanded to encompass both high school students and adult learners.

“So this opened the JTED program up to not only learn skills but to get college credit,” Kreamer said. “It shows the Legislature understands learners need to be prepared for today’s economy, and we need these programs.”

Arizona also increased incentives for schools to implement CTE programs.

“Something that's so innovative in what Arizona has done is they've actually created a set of bonus points,” said Kreamer, referring to a system that rewards schools for students that meet traditional academic benchmarks — like a certain SAT score or AP classes — and for CTE achievements, like receiving a technical credential.

“That is a game changer from our perspective in terms of shifting where your priorities will be and designing your school experiences and opportunities for your students so no doors are closed,” she said.

Arizona was also among 39 states to expand CTE programs offering industry-recognized credentials.

In some fields, like health care, the credential and training requirements straightforward. Kreamer said others, like Information Technology and other fast-changing fields, have hundreds of possible certifications and paths.

By partnering with big companies, CTE programs can gain insight into what credentials are valuable and which are a waste of resources, Kreamer said.

“Arizona is one of a number of states that has really been working strategically here,” she said. 

Advance CTE’s research shows that these programs work. About 99 percent of Arizona students taking technical education classes graduate high school, compared with the 77 percent general graduation rate.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct the spelling of Kate Kreamer's name and her title. 

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