State Directors of Career and Technical Education Convene in Baltimore, Md.

I was privileged to spend three days in Baltimore at the Fall Meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc). This meeting brings together the state agency CTE chiefs from across the nation to discuss strategy, standards and policy. In addition, government officials and business leaders join together to discuss CTE issues and trends. It was great to spend some time with board member Scott Stump (Colo.), and CTE directors and former board members Wayne Kutzer (N.D.) and Mike Raponi (Nev.). I was also very pleased to see Russ Weikle, one of our former SkillsUSA state directors in California, who is now the state’s CTE director. All in all, the meeting was an excellent opportunity to network with the state leaders who endorse SkillsUSA as an integral component of CTE instruction in schools and colleges across the USA.

The meeting kicked off with U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary, Brenda Dann Messier, with a federal update and an expression of gratitude for the work of the national leaders of CTE. Brenda’s comments were followed by a strong and supportive speech from Maryland’s Chief Academic Officer, Jack. R. Smith. During the conference, I was able to meet briefly with the Assistant Secretary and other U.S. Department of Education officials, including Robyn Utz, Chief of College and Career Transitions and Sharon Miller, Director of Academic and Technical Education.

The conference included several major reports on CTE. The first was from The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and their “A Skills Beyond School” review of postsecondary career and technical education in the United States. The report found many of the basic features of the U.S. approach to CTE as strong, but also reported that our decentralized system of education creates several challenges. There were other strengths and several recommendations cited in the OECD report. You can view the OECD the report here.

On Wednesday, the official release of “The State of Career and Technical Education: An Analysis of State CTE Standards” was presented to the directors. I was honored to be selected to serve on a panel that responded to the release. The panel included Douglas Major, ACTE’s President and Superintendent and CEO of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Okla., Marie Berry, State CTE Director from New Jersey and Maura Banta, Director of Citizenship Initiatives in Education from IBM. My contribution to the discussion was mainly focused on the states’ alignment to the “Career Ready Practices” in the standards, and I cited Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) like SkillsUSA as the delivery method to formalize career-ready instruction. It was very well received and Jim Stone from the National Center for Research in Career and Technical Education stood as part of the Q&A portion and really did a great job reinforcing what I had said about the need for all states to be sure they are utilizing the CTSOs to add credibility to this component of CTE instruction. You can read a news article from the “Sacramento Bee” concerning the release of the report here. You can visit this site to download the report and the new “Common Career and Technical Core.”

Other topics covered at the meeting included: (1) Updates on the Perkins legislation, Workforce Investment Act, Higher Education Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Act and NASDCTEc’s advocacy efforts; (2) An analysis of the Office of Management and Budget’s proposed new guidelines on state financial reporting practices; (3) Common Core State Standards; and, (4) Career Ready Assessments. As always, it was a very positive experience to network and learn from our state CTE leaders and policymakers.

I was also privileged to be a part of another panel with my peers from DECA and TSA to present a report from the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO). As a joint effort, the NCC-CTSO has developed a new website and also developed Congressional District Profiles for every state and every Congressional District within each state. These profiles will be great advocacy tools for our students and teachers as they visit legislators in D.C. and in their home states. Each profile shows the aggregated membership of the student organization in each state and district. You can visit the new website and view the profiles here: