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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

OECD: Much to Praise, Some Concerns About U.S. Postsecondary CTE

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July 12, 2013

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OECD: Much to Praise, Some Concerns About U.S. Postsecondary CTE

A new Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report paints a mixed picture of postsecondary CTE in the United States, praising CTE's flexibility, innovation and inclusion while citing challenges that result from decentralization, such as uneven quality and a lack of transparency and coherency that can affect student ability to make informed choices.

The report praises U.S. labor market returns for subbaccalaureate credentials; the relative affordability of postsecondary CTE programs; joint efforts to build career pathways by the Departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services; and cooperation between education and workforce agencies on the state level.

However, authors Małgorzata Kuczera and Simon Field also point out U.S. students' relatively low level of college readiness and the difficulties students can have accessing information to help them make good decisions about college and career. To combat this, Kuczera and Field make several recommendations:

  • Strengthen quality assurance in postsecondary education, share data on program quality and link quality to Title IV student financial aid
  • Establish a quality standard for industry certifications and better monitor postsecondary certificates and certifications
  • Improve transition into postsecondary CTE by strengthening high school CTE and workplace learning and supporting prior learning assessment to help adults enter or return to postsecondary education
  • Improve transition within postsecondary education by developing effective articulation frameworks
  • Improve transition to the labor market by incorporating workplace training as a standard element in postsecondary CTE programs and ensuring quality career guidance

In addition, a main theme of the report, and of the corresponding conversation at a New America Foundation launch event on Wednesday, was the need to obliterate artificial barriers between postsecondary CTE and the rest of higher education.

We at ACTE agree that there is much to be proud of in U.S. postsecondary CTE, as well as room for improvement.  The Perkins Act, the authors note, is an important element of CTE because it "provide[s] a strategic tool enabling the federal government to influence the shape and direction of state-driven CTE programs." ACTE's guiding principles for Perkins V reauthorization address many of the challenges addressed in this report, in order to further improve and strengthen our already dynamic and innovative CTE system.

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