Building Pathways to Student Success with Career and Technical Education (CTE)
Guest post by: Johann Zimmern, Group Manager, Education Programs, Adobe
The pressure on educators to rethink strategies for integrating technology into learning is greater than ever, and with good reason. Technology is pervasive. Finding ways to align students’ interests and enthusiasm for technology with the realities they will face in college and the workplace is essential.
While technology in education has been on the minds of educators and students for decades, keeping and teaching relevant technology in the classroom remains a challenge. What’s top of mind for teachers and students today, such as the 1:1 laptop initiative, was unheard of just a few years ago. Conversely, what’s considered essential today may be outdated tomorrow –remember the Palm® Pilot?
The good news is that fresh new approaches to Career and Technical Education (CTE) are taking shape at school districts across the U.S. With dropout rates hovering at or above 50% in many of the largest U.S. school districts, CTE programs can make a critical difference, helping students stay engaged in school while mastering 21st century skills. Educators have moved from teaching students basic computer skills to using industry-standard software to improve student creativity, strengthen problem-solving skills, and foster better collaboration in team environments. Increasingly, school districts are standardizing on industry-leading software so students learn using current workplace solutions.
Consider the compelling proof in a study of Florida’s Career and Professional Education (CAPE) academies: after five years, the graduation rate rose from 71% to 88.3% among students enrolled in their programs. At the same time, these students graduated with a significantly higher GPA. The average GPA among CAPE students earning industry certification is 3.0, compared to the overall Florida average of 2.5.
At Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, graphic arts teacher and first-year Business Professionals of America (BPA) advisor Dan Armstrong takes a view of CTE that is increasingly popular. He sees the value of a CTE program as going beyond simply providing basic skills and building a high school transcript. Instead, he says, “It’s about giving students a stronger resume, a head start on college, and potentially saving them money on college classes they’ll no longer need to take.”
For Armstrong, one critical way to make technology in education relevant to students is giving them access to the same software they’ll need to be successful in the workplace. For example, he’s using a combination of the latest computer hardware and Adobe® Creative Suite® Design Premium in order to develop the design, illustration, and composition skills that will serve his students well in an increasingly digital, visually-driven world.
The School District of Brevard County, in Florida, highlights the potential of CTE to transform student opportunities and learning. Several years ago, educators on Florida’s “Space Coast” set out to create a program to prepare high school students to excel in an information and technology‐centric society, providing them with essential digital arts and communications skills.
At Viera High School in Brevard County, digital arts and media instructor Pete Espicopo helped develop a digital design and multimedia curriculum and academy that aligned with standards set by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). The curriculum is designed to help students use industry standard Adobe Creative Suite software to learn the skills and competencies now in demand by industry and postsecondary education.
In this program, students learn in small teams; gain practical experience through industry‐sponsored internships; and operate in an industry‐like environment. Most importantly, students use the same equipment and software used by industry professionals, and have the opportunity to attain Adobe Certified Associate credentials that are recognized as entry‐level industry certification.
Today, with the success achieved at Viera High School, the program has been extended to four more high schools participating in the Academy for Digital Arts and Media (ADAM) program. “ADAM students are enthusiastic about learning skills and techniques that carry them beyond high school,” says Episcopo. "Using the Adobe curriculum with Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection software, we can better prepare students to succeed after graduation.”
With today’s economic climate and rapid technological advances, the need for CTE courses is greater than ever. CTE programs provide students with a jump-start to their college degrees by providing advanced credit for courses taken in high school. Additionally, students gain the range of skills necessary to be considered “workforce ready.” Savvy educators are embracing the challenge of keeping technology relevant in learning, with CTE programs built to reflect the reality of the changing workplace and designed to give students ways to explore career options, build transferable skills, and access multiple paths to success.