Support growing for career, technical education

Every February, the Association for Career and Technical Education promotes CTE Month, a public awareness campaign celebrating the accomplishments of CTE programs across the country. Technology Center of DuPage celebrates by recognizing students who earned an A during first semester in their TCD program. This year there are 377 A-Team students.

On behalf of those who work to provide high-quality CTE programs to DuPage area students, I thought it important to report on recent national developments that affect students participating in Technology Center of DuPage and other CTE programs funded through the DuPage Area Occupational Education System. In upcoming columns, we'll meet some A-Team students who benefit from these initiatives.

CTE funding trends

Did you know that public investment in CTE programs yields big economic returns - as high as tenfold - for regional and state economies? Research findings like this have been fueling national support to strengthen career and technical education.

Last fall, the Senate's CTE Caucus introduced the CTE Opportunity Act. The proposed legislation aims to expand eligibility for federal aid under the Higher Education Act to include students participating in short-term postsecondary programs - training programs that lead to an industry-recognized certification or credential. U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, and Rep. Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican, introduced similar legislation in the House.

Then in November, Congress and the Obama administration ratified a two-year budget agreement that allows much-needed relief from the Budget Control Act's sequester caps. Those caps had constrained federal spending on domestic programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, a basic state grant program and important source of funding of CTE programs. The new budget provides level Perkins funding for 2016 and restores earlier cuts to national CTE research and technical assistance projects.

Locally, DAOES and Technology Center of DuPage receive approximately $1.09 million from Perkins, half of which flows through DAOES to fund CTE programs in our 14 participating school districts.

Well-rounded education

Do you know a student who started college but did not finish? Research demonstrates that CTE participation is a key factor in a student's successful transition to and, more important, completion of a postsecondary credential or degree. This has not gone unnoticed among lawmakers.

Last December, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which includes a number of promising provisions aimed at strengthening the requirement that state academic standards align with state CTE standards. The act also expands college and career guidance programs while focusing on the importance of collecting and analyzing performance data on students who participate in CTE. This law promotes a "well-rounded education" and includes career and technical education as a key component of the statutory definition.

Quality, accountability

Seventeen states, including Illinois, have joined the Career Readiness Initiative, committing to high-quality CTE, career pathways, labor market responsiveness and business partnerships, and incorporating career readiness into accountability systems. The task force behind this initiative is part of the Council of Chief State School Officers, representing leaders of elementary and secondary education systems. Having the focus of the chief state officers on this significant project is a great sign for CTE.

Celebrate CTE in DuPage

As a former high school district superintendent and a former DAOES board member now serving as interim director for DAOES, I have been able to see the value of career and technical education from multiple perspectives.

Federal and state decision-makers also are recognizing the impact that quality CTE systems have on the lives of students looking for viable, satisfying careers; the needs of employers seeking skilled, well-rounded employees; and the future growth of our nation's economy, as we search for fresh sparks to economic development.

I encourage the DuPage community - policymakers, parents, students, employers, the media and other important constituents - to take time this month to advocate and support the great CTE programs offered at Technology Center of DuPage and throughout our member districts. Begin by following TCD on Facebook, Twitter @TCDuPage, and to learn more about CTE in DuPage as we highlight and celebrate student success.

• Alf Logan is the interim director of the DuPage Area Occupational Education System, the governing body for Technology Center of DuPage and other CTE delivery sites in the region. Community members may schedule a personal visit or group tour by calling Kathy Rosenwinkel at (630) 691-7572.

Paige Jackson, a senior from Naperville North and a TCD A-Team member, has been building her skills in cosmetology at TCD in preparation for the state licensing examination. She is also on track to earn 46 college credits through TCD's dual credit agreement with College of DuPage. Dual credit is a benefit of high school CTE programs. Courtesy of the Technology Center of DuPage
Leonardo Kekic, a senior at Lake Park High School and TCD A-Team member, demonstrates that CTE is for college bound students, too. He plans to continue in automotive technology at Southern Illinois University. Courtesy of the Technology Center of DuPage
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