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#AskExcelinEd: What is CTE, and how can it serve students in your state?

• Danielle Mezera, Ph.D.

At ExcelinEd, we focus a lot on what it takes to develop high-quality state career and technical education (CTE) programs. Whether we are supporting governors and state lawmakers or working with state and local education and workforce agencies, our focus is on the development of state CTE programs that are robust, relevant and fully aligned with the economic and workforce needs of states. While others talk it, we walk it with state policymakers.

As we join others across the nation in kicking off a month-long celebration of CTE, we plan to not only share with you promising practices taking place across states, but to also call your attention to issues that state policymakers must address if they are to build meaningful, high-quality state CTE programs.

Look for blog posts from the ExcelinEd team on:

Why CTE Matters for Students in Your State

Now that I’ve teed you up for what I believe will be some amazing, thought-provoking reads, it begs an initial question—what, exactly, is career and technical education and why does it matter for the students in your state?

According to Perkins V, CTE is organized educational activities that offer a sequence of courses, which:

(i) provides individuals with rigorous academic content and relevant technical knowledge and skills needed to prepare for further education and careers in current or emerging professions, which may include high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industry sectors or occupations, which shall be, at the secondary level, aligned with challenging State academic standards …; [and]


(ii) provides technical skill proficiency or a recognized postsecondary credential which may include an industry-recognized credential, a certificate, or an associate degree.

Perhaps a simpler way to envision it is this: CTE is the intentional offering of a learning pathway that purposefully braids rigorous academic, technical, and employability learning and skills where that pathway is also aligned with the economic and workforce priorities of the state and/or region.

No matter how you interpret CTE, the larger question is how is your state using the definition of CTE to reimagine education and opportunities for students? I hope that you will enjoy our monthlong series on CTE, and that we are able to challenge you in your thinking and approach as you define what a high-quality state CTE program means in your state.

Resources to Help Expand High-Quality CTE

CTE Playbooks & Perkins V

During our month-long celebration, we would be remiss not to also direct state and local policymakers to some of the well-established tools we’ve developed for those who want to reimagine CTE in their state and communities. This includes not only our five part CTE playbook series and Perkins V policy toolkit, but also various model policies gleaned from states.

Credentials Matter

As we continue our work with Burning Glass Technologies on Credentials Matter 2.0, I encourage you to “deep dive” into our groundbreaking work from Credentials Matter. This first-of-its-kind analysis, in partnership with Burning Glass Technologies, examines how well the credentials students earn align with real-world employer demand and the surprises that come when those offerings actually don’t align.


About the author

Danielle Mezera, Ph.D.

Danielle Mezera is a Senior Policy Fellow for ExcelinEd focusing on innovation policies. Dr. Mezera is also principal consultant with DCM Consulting where she regularly works with clients at the national, state and local levels on career and technical education (CTE) and on K-16 education-to-career learning models. She previously served five years as the Assistant Commissioner for College, Career and Technical Education with the Tennessee Department of Education and led a systemwide overhaul of the state’s CTE program to develop and implement rigorous, aligned programs of study. Dr. Mezera also served five years as Director of Children and Youth with Nashville’s Office of the Mayor and Tennessee’s Davidson County. Before entering public service, she served as a director at the Vanderbilt University Institute for Public Policy Studies. Dr. Mezera holds a Master of Education degree and Doctor of Philosophy in education.