Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a classic. When I think about today’s bridge over troubled water, I think about how prepared I am to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I think about how to bridge Common Core State Standards and Career Technical Education (CTE) together.
I work in a vocational high school as a CTE commercial art teacher. Most of my CTE colleagues and I have heard of the CCSS, but we aren’t prepared to use the standards in the classroom. In doing my own research, I learned that the mission statement for the CCSS Initiative is to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.”
As a CTE instructor, I feel left out of the loop compared to the academic subjects. There has not been a clear understanding of the CCSS. Some CTE instructors feel the CCSS is for language arts and math teachers, and others feel they are just being forced to add another acronym to their vocabulary.
Regardless of the subject being taught, all teachers need to clearly understand what the CCSS are so they can help students excel. Simply telling a teacher to use CCSS is not sufficient.
According to the CCSS website, the standards are “designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.” If this is the case, then CTE and other non-tested subjects need to be recognized as real-world subjects and given the necessary tools in order to achieve these goals.
The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTc) made this statement in May 2011 questioning how CTE will be aligned to the CCSS:
Though the CCSS provide a thoughtful framework for academic coursework, they do not fully address the critical career component that is essential to every student’s education. The standards do not reference employability skills that all students need to be thoroughly prepared for further education and careers, nor do they integrate career-specific skills. Therefore, to provide students with a more comprehensive education, schools must integrate or align technical standards with the CCSS.
Just last year, Achieve produced a valuable resource, Common Core State Standards & Career and Technical Education: Bridging the Divide between College and Career Readiness. It outlines a set of strategies for state and district leaders to make certain the implementation of CCSS aligns, informs, engages, and benefits the CTE community.
I believe this can work if school districts incorporate professional development activities to help CTE instructors integrate CCSS into their classrooms. To reiterate, telling CTE teachers to align their curriculum to the CCSS is not sufficient.
Alyssa Lynch, the CTE Director of the Santa Clara County Office of Education in San Jose, California, wrote a presentation stating, “Nearly half the states have no CTE representation on their CCSS implementation teams.”
In order for CTE instructors to be equipped to implement the CCSS, school districts are going to have come together. An alignment of educational systems that support the goals of CCSS and CTE will need to be developed through specific strategies. Identifying common barriers and challenges, providing instructional resources, and updating curricular are a few steps that will help bridge CTE programs.
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Indira Bailey is a visual art teacher at Essex County Vocational School, Bloomfield, NJ. Ms. Bailey is a 2013 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow (HSG). She is also the 2012-2013 Essex County Teacher of the Year and finalist for New Jersey Teacher of the Year. TakePart.com