Recently, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on state and local efforts to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As we have reported, the passage of ESSA in 2015 marked a major step toward ensuring that all students are prepared to graduate from high school ready for college and careers. The new law includes critical measures to strengthen the role of CTE in our nation’s K-12 education system. As states and school districts look to fully implement ESSA in the coming school year, the educators and advocates who testified at the hearing spoke at length about the importance of CTE in their efforts.

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State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright talked about the role of CTE in the development of the Mississippi state plan. Through the efforts of CTE stakeholders in her state, Dr. Wright noted that the state plan will include the opportunity for students to graduate from high school with a CTE diploma endorsement of “equal value to an academic endorsement.”  In response to questions from the members of the committee, Dr. Wright further elaborated on efforts in Mississippi to work directly with representatives of industry sectors, as well as the state workforce development system, to design and develop secondary CTE programs.

In her testimony, Dr. Gail Pletnick of the Dysart Unified School District in Arizona discussed the use of CTE-focused performance indicators as part of Arizona’s state accountability system. Dr. Pletnick explained, “At the high school level indicators incorporated include Career and Technical Education assessments, advanced academic coursework indicators and earned career credentials.” The option to use measures of career readiness in state accountability systems was one of the major advancement of ESSA.

Phillip Lovell of the Alliance for Excellent Education discussed the integration of rigors academic and CTE content in the classroom, which states and school districts can support through ESSA funding. However, he noted that proposed 2018 funding levels for education in Congress, as well as the Administration’s budget request, which would cut the Perkins state grants by 15 percent and eliminate ESSA funding for teacher training and afterschool programs, would make it difficult to fulfill ESSA’s goal of better aligning CTE and academic subjects.