Three Questions that are the Foundation for Program Excellence

Last week, I participated in Advance CTE’s Washington DC conference. Advance CTE is a national organization of state leaders and supporting organizations focused on excellence in Career and Technical Education.  One of the highlights of the meeting was the announcement of the annual Excellence in Action award, a program to recognize local CTE programs of excellence.

This year’s winners are:

  • Mishicot High School, Plant Science (Wisconsin) 
    Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources Career Cluster®
  • Susan Miller Dorsey High School, Dorsey Film Program, (California)
    Arts, A/V Technology & Communications Career Cluster®
  • Como Park Senior High School, Academy of Finance (Minnesota)
    Business Management & Administration Career Cluster®
  • Henderson County High School, Health Science (Kentucky)
    Health Science Career Cluster®
  • Questar III BOCES Rensselaer Educational Center, Criminal Justice I & II (New York)
    Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security Career Cluster®
  • Kaukauna High School, Manufacturing (Wisconsin)
    Manufacturing Career Cluster®
  • Nashua High School North, Biotechnology (New Hampshire) 
    Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Career Cluster®
  • Irving High School, Aviation (Texas)
    Transportation, Distribution & Logistics Career Cluster®

You can see the short summaries of all the programs, and link to the 2-page summaries here.

Each of these programs have been around long enough to have an excellent track record and very specific indicators of student success.  When you review the program summaries, you’ll see three consistent strategies that have contributed to their success.

First, they are specifically aligned to regional workforce needs and opportunities, and many of the programs have evolved over time to stay aligned to changing workforce needs.

Second, they all are built upon, and benefit from, extensive employer involvement and support.  The programs don’t just ask for support from local employers; they involve employers in the design of the programs, listen carefully to employer input, and act upon the input they receive.  They also involve employers as partners in creating work-based learning experiences, school-based activities, career technical student organization activities, and in providing work-based learning experiences like internships and job shadows.

Finally, they create strong partnerships with postsecondary partners to ensure that these programs provide early college credits where possible. They align the high school programs with postsecondary programs so students can make seamless transitions from high school to postsecondary learning.

You can also learn about all the past award winners: 20182017, 2016, 2015, 2014.

Most importantly, as you think about your own programs, ask:

  • Are we working hard to keep our programs aligned to emerging workforce needs?
  • Are we asking for and listening to employers, inviting them to help us design and revamp our programs?
  • Are we actively engaging and aligning with postsecondary partners?

All three of these questions require a little loosening of control over your programs and inviting others more directly inside the school to share program design and delivery.  But to have a healthy, growing and thriving program, there really is no better way.  Your programs and your students will reap the benefits!

Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (  NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education

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