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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

ACTE Voices Enthusiastic Support for Creation of Presidential Career and Technical Scholars Award

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May 28, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, VA - The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) today expressed its strong support for a letter sent to U.S. President Barack Obama by U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), encouraging him to issue an Executive Order creating a new award in the Presidential Scholars program for career and technical education (CTE) students.

"We are hopeful that the President will act on this request from our friends in the United States Senate to recognize and cultivate excellence among high school scholars in CTE fields," said ACTE Executive Director LeAnn Wilson. "ACTE worked with these offices in drafting this letter, and we are hopeful that the U.S. Presidential Scholars program will soon recognize the outstanding accomplishments of CTE students who are building a brighter future for themselves as scholars and professionals."

The Presidential Scholars program was created during President Lyndon B. Johnson's Administration to recognize the top 121 high school graduates based on their scholastic achievement, leadership and community involvement. Under the Administration of President Jimmy Carter, the program was expanded to recognize an additional 20 students based on "outstanding scholarship and demonstrated ability and accomplishment in the visual and performance arts or in creative writing." ACTE strongly supports the initiative and commitment to CTE demonstrated by the senators in sending this letter to the president, and appreciates their continued support for CTE programs nationwide through the Senate CTE Caucus.

CTE programs provide rigorous academic and technical training to 94 percent of American high school students and 12 million postsecondary students. ACTE advocates for policies and programs that connect students with relevant, real-world learning opportunities to prepare them for careers. For more information on CTE and its positive impacts for students, schools, communities and the country, visit www.acteonline.org.

Full Text of the letter is below:

May 23, 2014                    

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear Mr. President,

We write today regarding the U.S. Presidential Scholars program, and career and technical education.  

The U.S. Presidential Scholars program celebrated its 50th class of scholars this month.  President Johnson created this outstanding program by Executive Order in 1964.  It honors graduating high school seniors for academic excellence, artistic accomplishments, and civic contributions.  High school students apply based on their scores on college entrance assessments (the SAT or ACT).  Further evaluation occurs based on school transcripts, leadership, and contributions to the community.

This program also has a component for students in the arts.  Each year, up to 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts are also selected, based on nominations by the National Young Arts Foundation through their YoungArts program.  These Scholars in the Arts are chosen for their accomplishments in the visual, literary and performing arts, as well as for their scholarship, leadership and public service.

The existence of the Presidential Scholars in the Arts program demonstrates a commitment to recognizing excellence in our high school students in multiple ways.  We urge you to create, by Executive Order, a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars program.   

Career and technical education (CTE) programs are a proven method to prepare secondary and postsecondary students with the rigorous academic and technical skills needed to compete in today's global economy and to further their education.  It is in our national interest to not only provide all students access to rigorous CTE programs of study, but to also encourage high attainment by CTE students.

Over the past two decades, CTE programs around the country have responded to the growing skills gap by increasing the rigor of their programs through secondary-postsecondary links, dual enrollment and alignment with business and industry needs.  Today's CTE programs are aligned with the needs of the 21st century workforce in career fields such as engineering, information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing. In response to the increased rigor in programs, CTE student performance has risen to the challenge in dramatic fashion.

The Department of Education recently announced that the average U.S. high school graduation rate was 80 percent and Secretary Duncan pledged to push forward to close the gap to 90 percent.  CTE is playing an important role in achieving this goal, with the average graduation rate for CTE concentrators already above 90 percent. Moreover, secondary CTE students are more likely to pursue postsecondary education than their non-CTE counterparts. And CTE students are competing in world class competitions to test their knowledge in ways no standardized test could.  For example, the Skills USA WorldTeam earned a silver medal in the 2013 World Skills competition in Leipzig, Germany.

Your administration has called for an emphasis on college- and career-ready standards in our schools. In your most recent State of the Union address, you highlighted the importance of students obtaining some form of postsecondary training.

As you prepare to deliver the commencement address at Worcester Technical High School on June 11, 2014, we urge you to support rigorous CTE programs around the country and to recognize high-performing CTE students.  It is time we recognize and value the efforts of our students who have chosen CTE pathways.

As cofounders of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, we urge you to issue an Executive Order to establish a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars Award in line with other presidential awards for student achievement in academics and the creative arts. 

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine
U.S. Senator Rob Portman
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin 

About ACTE
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the nation's largest not-for-profit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. ACTE represents the community of CTE professionals, including educators, administrators, researchers, guidance counselors and others at all levels of education. ACTE is committed to excellence in providing advocacy, public awareness and access to resources, professional development and leadership opportunities.

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The Association for Career and Technical Education is the nation’s largest not-for-profit education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. Founded in 1926, ACTE has more than 25,000 members; career and technical educators, administrators, researchers, guidance counselors and others involved in planning and conducting career and technical education programs at the secondary, postsecondary and adult levels. ACTE provides advocacy, public awareness and access to information on career and technical education, professional development and tools that enable members to be successful and effective leaders.

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ACTE is committed to enhancing the job performance and satisfaction of its members; to increasing public awareness and appreciation for career and technical programs; and to assuring growth in local, state and federal funding for these programs by communicating and working with legislators and government leaders.

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