Posted November 12, 2019
Across the country, states and school districts are updating career and technical education (CTE) programs to better meet the needs of students and the industries of the future they are entering.
Given important differences in regional industries and workforce demands, what that process looks like varies widely from place to place. Program design and improvement often require a top-to-bottom review of CTE pathways and courses, which can be daunting for districts and states. Recently, FourPoint Education Partners and UPD Consulting conducted a comprehensive review for the school district in Providence, Rhode Island, as part of a district-wide goal of improving outcomes for students, including access to high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand career fields.
Providence, like many urban districts, has struggled with how to best serve students and families, which has led to a state takeover of the district. But Providence also has seen some real improvement in its CTE program. For example, the four-year graduation rate at Providence Career and Technical Academy has reached an impressive 96.9%, and across all CTE programs, 81.7% of students graduate on time, versus just 72.2% of non-CTE students.
Our review included looking at a wide range of CTE application, enrollment, and outcome data from the district and the state; visits to five high schools; and interviews and focus groups with high school CTE students, teachers, principals, school board members, industry partners, and central office administrators. We were able to pinpoint what the district does well and what it needs to work on to ensure that all students can be successful.
Some of our recommendations for Providence include:
- Improving outreach to middle school students and families about CTE programs;
- Modernizing the program application process, which is largely on paper, and making it more accessible and attuned to students’ interests;
- Providing meaningful opportunities for CTE teachers and core subject teachers to collaborate and learn instructional best practices from each other;
- Giving CTE teachers and program administrators time to meet with the top industries in the state, so they can stay up-to-date and build authentic, productive relationships that result in relevant credentials and experiences for students.