Like few other issues, education impacts various different sectors of public policy. From crime to jobs to social issues, no other policy touches so many others. I’m proud of what we have done for education in Tennessee. Freed from the undue influence of public sector unions under our new Republican majority, education innovators are now given a fair hearing in Tennessee government.
Thanks to the leadership of our governor and others, we passed much needed tenure reform last session and we are looking forward to more reform in the future. We still have much to do. But as we move forward, innovate and break free of those practices that no longer work, it is important that we note those programs that do.
Chief among them is Career and Technical Education (CTE). While they may not be sexy to career academics and they may not lead to students to Vanderbilt Law School, M.I.T. or a PHD in philosophy, these programs do prepare students for their future in ways traditional education programs simply cannot. As we move forward in reforming Tennessee education we must be careful not to leave tried and true methods of educating a broad base of students behind.
A total of 398,695 students were enrolled in CTE courses last year in Tennessee. Over the last six years, CTE concentrators graduated at a higher percentage than the school age population at large. CTE concentrators also beat the averages in math and well as in reading and writing.
The statistics don’t lie and they are on display for all to see in the newest annual report for the Council for CTE. I encourage everyone to take a look for themselves online.
CTE’s success can also be measured by the increase in interest amongst students. In the last six years, enrollment in CTE has increased 15%. While some help has been given to post secondary programs, secondary school CTE program have not received an influx of state funds in nearly 30 years.
While post secondary programs are important, high school is where students either rise to meet challenges or fall behind. Students must have the diversity of academic options that CTE education provides. A mastery of traditional subjects cannot be under-emphasized but neither should the width and breath of knowledge that an education rich in CTE courses can provide.
Parents and students often point out that high school education classes tend to lack “real world” application. And, quite frankly, while it important for students to master all subjects to the best of their ability, it is true that some subjects have a longer-lasting utility than others. CTE’s explicit purpose is to prepare students for very specific vocations. CTE prepares students for the “real world” in concrete terms.
The value of having a rich and developed CTE program cannot be overemphasized. Not only does CTE help students who may go on higher levels of education it prepares them immediately for the workplace. Education is not a one-size fits all proposition. Students are not all looking at the same future on the same time time table. Without an educated workforce prepared for Tennessee’s real world workplace, this state cannot continue to be the best place to own and operate a business.
For Tennessee to stay one of the most attractive economic engines in the Southeast, we must leave a place at the table for CTE.