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#AskExcelinEd: How can state and local education agencies support educators in improving CTE instruction?


• Dr. Danielle Mezera

As we’ve noted before, strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) requires a number of steps, including program alignment with state and regional demand; sequenced and progressive coursework; academic and technical student experiences that result in employable skills; and high-quality course standards.

What is missing from this list? Educators. As a robust state CTE program grows, industry demands change and standards are revised, so there must be support for ongoing education and skill development for CTE educators.

The majority of CTE educators enter the profession through nontraditional pathways, often straight out of industry. Whether CTE educators are new to teaching altogether or veterans, there may be gaps in content knowledge and/or instructional capabilities as CTE standards are revised and strengthened.

CTE educator professional development and training must be updated to reflect the necessary conditions and skills for robust instruction and content. This hand-in-glove approach may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked.

To address this, states and districts must offer professional development and training programs that fully reflect the learning and instructional expectations captured in existing and new CTE standards. As with the CTE course standards for students, educator offerings should build upon one another, so educators receive an integrative, holistic experience.

How CTE educators adopt and impart the more rigorous course standards in their actual classroom and lab instruction is vital to student success. Educators will only be as successful as they feel comfortable and experienced with their course standards. It is important to have many professional development and training “touch points” that CTE educators can access. If there are not ongoing opportunities for CTE educators to learn, build and reinforce their instructional practices, then the desired learning conditions for students may not be fully realized.

By addressing CTE educator professional development and training concurrently with CTE curricula reform, states and districts can more rapidly promote and instruct on education-to-occupation learning pathways that are in full alignment with their state and regional economic and labor priorities. This commitment on the part of state agencies and local school districts will create learning environments that set up their students for long-term success.

Check out our Putting CTE to Work for Students: A Playbook for State Policymakers to get started and stay tuned over the next few months as we release additional resources to help states strengthen their CTE programs.


About the author


Dr. Danielle Mezera

In March 2017, Danielle Mezera launched her boutique consulting firm, DCM Consulting, specializing in K-12 and postsecondary education and the intersection of these to inform strong education-to-career learning pathways. Prior to this, Mezera served as the Assistant Commissioner for College, Career and Technical Education for the Tennessee Department of Education. As Assistant Commissioner, Mezera oversaw CTE curricula, state-promoted early postsecondary course offerings, ACT/SAT, postsecondary matriculation initiatives, K-12 school counseling and work-based learning. She also served as state lead with Pathways to Prosperity Network and the J.P. Morgan Chase - New Skills for Youth grants. Prior to assuming her state role, Mezera served as chief education policy advisor for Mayor Purcell and Mayor Dean of Nashville-Davidson County. Before entering public service, Mezera served as a director at the Vanderbilt University Institute for Public Policy Studies. During her tenure at Vanderbilt University, Danielle held various senior level positions in administration. Mezera holds a B.A., M.Ed. and Ph.D. in education.