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An Op-Ed in the New York Times and a prominent post on the Huffington Post both discuss that Career Technical Education (CTE) suffers from many popular misconceptions. For a moment, let’s focus on the Huffington Post piece. 

Titled Reframing How We Talk about Career and Technical Education, the author compares the positive benefits of how CTE is executed in Germany and America. Close to a million students participate in Germany’s “dual system” of education, combining classroom with on-the-job training and apprenticeships. In the U.S., however, the negative perception of CTE causes it to be underappreciated and underutilized.  

“One disadvantage CTE has compared to the dual system is that it isn’t fully embraced by students and parents, or they simply aren’t aware of it,” the author writes. “In Germany, the dual system is as prestigious as university. In the U.S., CTE is often mischaracterized as an inferior educational pathway to college prep. For some time now, CTE enrollment rates have been flat.” 

Despite the misconception in the U.S., a recent survey by Edge Research shows nearly unanimous support for the development of real-world skills in high school. In fact, nine out of ten Americans surveyed feel that CTE should be offered in every high school in the U.S. to provide more meaningful educational experiences for students. 

Moreover, there appears to be a growing preference for experiential, career-focused learning opportunities over traditional forms of education; 56 percent of parents surveyed believe two years of work experience is more valuable than a four-year liberal arts degree, and they’re not alone – nearly half of the Millennial respondents preferred career-focused learning in high-demand areas like health care and business administration over conventional biology or economics classes. 

All in all, this discussion is becoming prominent and national. It is important. Most of all, let’s not hold our children back from CTE courses and programs because of a stigma. They will still get the same great general courses in mathematics and history, but they will remember their electives as among their most interesting experiences in high school. Let’s get to work!

About The Author

Patrick (Pat) Keeney, Director of College and Career Programs for our Managed Public Schools, is a career educator who has spent time in the classroom, consulting, launching a company, and with K12. Prior to his time in Product Management, Pat served for almost 7 years as part of the K12 Product Development group where he was the lead instructional designer on many high school math and science courses, and helped in designing games like X-germz. Prior to his time with K12, Pat was a consultant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where he worked with GOES satellites and deep-space astrophysics. In the late 1990s he founded an online education company. He also spent 17 years teaching in classrooms in Maryland and Pennsylvania, teaching high school mathematics and science, primarily physics. Pat’s interests range from basketball, a sport that he played and coached, to chess. Perhaps most importantly, Pat has also been a learning coach many years, and has seen the K12 experience from that perspective.

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