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Pennsylvania Association for Career and Technical Education

Pennsylvania ACTE Winter 2013 Newsletter



Integrating Academic Content in CTE
Kids Go Green at Urban CTC
Study Shares Five Keys to Safety in the CTE Classroom

Integrating Academic Content in CTE

The importance of academic integration is well known among career and technical educators. The question is what are the best ways to accomplish the integration.

At A.W. Beattie Center in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, they developed some successful strategies that have helped them stay ahead of the Common Core standards deadline. Their activities have brought together all the key players and developed a seamless teaching of academics and technical skills.

PACTE Winter 2013 Newsletter - Academic Integration

One School’s Path
The A.W. Beattie Career Center began the process of academic integration with the Pennsylvania academic standards about four years ago. “At that time, we reviewed the existing curriculum to determine which academic standards were taught as part of the career and technology center program competencies,” says Sandra Niggel, Assistant Director for Curriculum at the center. Academic integration teachers and an assessment coordinator work with career and technical teachers to review their competencies and assist the career teachers in determining the academic standards that align to the career and technical center’s curriculum.

Niggel also said that the center held professional development sessions on academic standards and alignment and had teachers attend programs offered through the Bureau of Career and Technical Education. The A.W. Beattie Career Center participated in the Tech Centers That Work (TCTW) program that assists the career teachers to integrate the academics into their instruction. Teams of academic teachers and career teachers attended the TCTW workshops together and developed integrated career and technical lessons.

Mapping it Out
Niggel explains that the center uses a curriculum mapping system that contains program competencies and details the academic alignment. The career and technical teachers and the academic integration teachers are in the process of reviewing the curriculum and aligning the competencies to the Common Core. This process will be ongoing through next year.

“My recommendation is to utilize the resources the career center has to assist the career and technical teachers in understanding the Common Core Standards and identify the academic content within their existing hands-on competencies and instruction,” says Niggel. “Once this has been done, the alignment can be reviewed to determine where additional academics can be integrated.”

Niggel also says the center utilizes a curriculum mapping database providing reports that describe the academic standards aligned to each career program. “The reports also provide us with the number of competencies that address each standard,” she says. The career and technical teachers and the academic integration teachers are able to review the alignment and determine areas where additional academics need to be integrated. Niggel explains, “The same type of analysis can be completed by utilizing crosswalks that list the standards and the competencies identify where each standard is taught.”

Keys to Success
Niggel explained that, “one of the keys to the success of the integration of academics and standards alignment has been the partnership between these academic integration teachers and career and technical teachers. This partnership has been a significant reason we have moved from identifying standards to enhancing the CTC instruction to include academic instruction.” She also said that the career teachers and academic teachers work together to develop and deliver joint lessons throughout the school year, integrating the CTC competencies and the academics needed for students to succeed.

Another successful strategy was holding optional curriculum development in-service days at the end of the school year. This professional development offering helped strengthen the partnership and the curriculum. The career and technical teachers, academic integration teachers, the assessment coordinator, and the curriculum supervisor worked together to align the competencies and develop ideas for academic integration into the CTC curriculum. Niggel added, “The feedback from the teachers for these in-service days has been extremely positive. The teachers have asked us to offer these again. Teachers have told us they appreciated being able to focus on their curriculum without the concerns of day-to-day instruction and classroom management.”

Staying Power
As the process developed at A.W. Beattie Career Center, the career teachers have become knowledgeable about the standards and the academics needed within their programs for students to be successful. According to Niggel, the career teachers have taken the lead and are very involved in improving the level of integration.

Niggel advises other centers to make sure “career and technical educators understand that the Common Core and academic integration is not separate from their career and technical instruction, and does not reduce the time that is spent on the career and technical instruction. Academic integration is essential to the success of their students. The successful integration of academics within the technical program serves to remove some of the obstacles that would make students less successful in their career program.”

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PACTE Winter 2013 Newsletter - Green CTC

Kids Go Green at Urban CTC
Construction Students Build Green House for Environmental Education

First-time teacher James Esposito wants his students, “to have a good career. A way to get out of Philly if that is what they want. I want them to have a comfortable life and not have life live them.”

And he has found that opportunity for his students in a green house.

The green house project started last year when staff from the Overbrook Environmental Education Center in West Philadelphia wanted to increase their involvement with the A. Phillip Randolph Career Academy.

Overbrook had a used greenhouse kit the students could put together. With no instructions or drawings, the students mapped out their plans to build a high tunnel green house.

Then the project became more involved after a city inspector told them the deck would need to be stabilized in order to support the greenhouse. The students fixed the deck and also made the structure ADA compliant, explained senior Randy Harris.

“They’re 11th and 12th graders and they put their heads together and figured out how to build this,” said Esposito. “Like in football, they huddle up and then they break. There were six of them. Two went to cutting, one was a laborer and runner, and three did the building. It went like clockwork. It feels good as a teacher when you don’t need to teach them.”

The high tunnel green house is part of an urban and rainwater conservation project at Overbrook. The greenhouse will be used to grow vegetables, fruits, and other produce. It is one of the city’s first approved elevated high tunnels.

Overbrook has provided in-field coursework focused on green infrastructural maintenance to the construction trade students. The program enables students to address strategies for storm water management, build raised-bed planters, erect green houses, and obtain EPA certifications in safety.

In January, three seniors involved in the project took part in the Urban Sustainability Forum: Next Generation Green at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. The forum featured young Philadelphians who have brought fresh ideas and solutions to help the community live in healthier and sustainable ways.

“We got to tell people about the purpose of the green house, our field work experience, and our perspective,” says Malik Johnson.

The seniors involved the most with the construction have also used the green house for their senior project. Esposito boasted that the students hand built the doors for the green house. “They framed those end walls, designed it, built the doors, and installed them,” he said.

Between their senior project and their presentation at the forum, the students have definitely shown what they have learned during these two years. Johnson says he has enjoyed, “learning how to grow plants the right way. We worked so long on the raised beds that we stayed the whole day and missed our first presentation at the school on the solar panels.”

And these students clearly understand the opportunities Esposito has provided them. “As long as this man is here, there is nothing to worry about,” says Harris. The students think so highly of Esposito they have nominated him for an award. “He knows what he is doing,” says Harris. “He put his stamp down on this school.”

“He changed this shop around,” says Johnson. “It is more hands-on and way more stuff to do now.” He explained how Esposito had the students work together to build an actual classroom for the construction program. The students put in the drop ceiling, the electrical, the closets, and installed the windows. “Before there was just trash piles and now we have a masonry section, electrical, and plumbing,” he said.

Now the students at Randolph will use what they learned to build their own green house at the school and make the center self-sustainable. Esposito said that what they grow in the school’s green house will be used by the culinary department.

The students are also learning about solar energy. The school has solar panels but they are not used. If the construction students get them running, the panels could provide 40 percent of the schools power. Esposito is being certified as a solar instructor while the students are being certified by the staff at Overbrook.

The school also has an air turbine that they are looking at getting trained to use to power the school. The air turbine would bring the school up to around 70 percent sustainability.

Overbrook is applying for grants that will also benefit the school and the school is applying for their own grants to help with the sustainability efforts. “We have the green house kit purchased for the school, but there is a lot more you need,” says Esposito.

The students are in the process of working on the auto body shop and reconfiguring it for new equipment the auto body department received. They are running airlines, electrical, fan installations, and exhaust. Esposito described a pulley system they installed to keep hoses off the ground and prevent tripping.

Esposito also talked about his students getting ready for the NOCTI exams and their future plans. One has been accepted to several colleges and one has been accepted into the plumbers union.

“My kids know where they are going now,” he boasts. “And I can’t ask for anything more.”

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Study Shares Five Keys to Safety in the CTE Classroom
Penn State Professor Examines NIOSH Guidelines in Pennsylvania CTCs

Every year, approximately 84,000 teens visit the emergency room because of a work-related injury. According to Mark Threeton, assistant professor in workforce education and development at The Pennsylvania State University. This at-risk group needs the safety training career and technical education can provide.

Threeton studied approximately 40 career and technical centers across the state to determine how they provide and maintain a safe environment. What he learned was very positive. “Schools are taking safety seriously,” he said.

He explained that, “A lot of the safety issues we see in career and technical education stem from the fact that there is no actual health and safety program. There are rules, but no mechanism in place.”

Threeton used the National institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) recommendations to evaluate CTCs. These elements include:

  1. Assure management commitment—This is usually done in the form of an administration advisory committee that involves leadership in the safety decisions and implementation. Threeton found that the majority of schools were doing a really good job with positive management communication.
  2. Assure employee and student involvement—Threeton explains a good example would be when there is enforcement and accountability within the safety and health elements of each CTE program. He also found that the majority of schools were involving students in safety procedures and committees in their schools.
  3. Identify and prioritize potential hazards—These should involve all stakeholders and should include routine as well as unscheduled checks and inspections. This particular element is where many schools struggled in his study and where many schools need to focus their efforts. For example, one interesting finding had to do with hearing tests. With tightening budgets, schools have eliminated these tests, but hearing problems can be a potential hazard in a CTC. “If students have hearing deficiencies, one missed step within some CTE programs could be a life or death situation,” Threeton says.
  4. Eliminate identified hazards—This was another weak area for schools in the study. For example, Threeton found that a large number of educators allow students to work within the lab even though they did not score 100 percent on a safety test. “Those students are deficient in a safety area and yet they are allowed to work,” explained Threeton. He also said that the instructor’s knowledge acquisition within occupational safety and health should be assessed very early in the certification process. “This is an area which needs to be examined further,” Threeton says.
  5. Train employees, student, and management—“Everyone needs safety education,” Threeton said. “An instructor can always include safety in every lesson they teach. It really needs to be there and sometimes it’s not.”

Threeton suggests that career and tech schools looking to improve safety should visit the NIOSH Web site and look at the five elements for the safety program. “This will get the ball rolling,” says Threeton. “They break the process down step by step and have resources to help students.”

“There are also the basic things like to teach safety in every lesson not just doing it when the situation arises,” he adds. “Instructors need to reinforce through practice. It is one thing to say, ‘be safe.’ There needs to be follow through.”

Threeton also said there is a lot of technology out there now that improves safety. For example, there are apps for decibel (dB) meters to check noise levels and adequate noise reduction.

“I am a former automotive technology instructor, so I understand first hand how dangerous it can be,” he says. “Safety is an important element of education.”

Threeton is currently working on a state-wide safety manual for next school year. It will be distributed through the state’s Bureau of Career and Technical Education.

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