Posted by: Tom Ross | March 1, 2013

Speaking of Stereotypes

In my last blog post I talked about how CTE facilitates nontraditional career paths for both boys and girls. Students are breaking the stereotypes of the kinds of jobs associated with one sex or another.



There is another stereotype: the role of CTE programs—formerly known as Voc Ed—in education. Who is it for?

In 2008 a report from the Center for an Urban Future in New York City said this (see page 7): “Around mid-century, ‘Voc Ed,’ as it was known, began to acquire a stigma as an academic dumping ground that it retains to this day. Schools officials began to relegate youngsters with academic deficits or special-education needs to career preparation programs, and gradually a largely separate and clearly unequal system-within-a-system began to take shape. Voc Ed became almost synonymous with Special Ed…. It diminished kids’ aspirations by making institutional decisions about what they could do” by enforcing an artificial and outdated distinction between ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ standards.”

A study done in Virginia in 2004 (a dissertation rich in research and data) revealed the following: “Data analyzed revealed that some of the traditional stereotypical descriptors of CTE teachers, students, and programs were held by Virginia DOE administrators. Some stereotypes of note were: (a) CTE students do not plan to go to college, (b) CTE students are good with concrete concepts, (c) CTE students enjoy nonacademic classes more than academic ones, (d) CTE students are not from middle to upper socioeconomic class, (e) CTE teachers have lots of on-the-job experience, and (f) CTE programs are isolated from the rest of the school.

But even in 2003 someone was trying to do something about this. The Center on Education and Training for Employment at Ohio State University put out a Practice Application Brief to provide “strategies career and technical educators can use to present a new image of CTE as a viable strategy for education and work, including proactive approaches to enhancing the reputation of CTE programs, bringing parents up to date on labor market information, marketing CTE to the local community, and working with media to recognize exemplary programs and outstanding student achievements.“ These include giving students something to brag about, bringing parents on board, and working with counselors, student organizations, and local business and industry representatives.


”Marsha Boutelle scooped me on this in 2007 in a California Schools Magazine article (no longer available online) titled: Retooling Voc Ed: Career Technical Education Prepares Students for Life Beyond High School and quotes Gary Hoachlander, president of ConnectEd at The California Center for College and Career in Berkeley: “In a lot of policy discussions going on right now in Sacramento, a lot of people are talking about CTE as an alternative to college. That’s the wrong way to look at it. College is a very loaded term; if it’s interpreted to mean only a four-year college, it can polarize the discussion. And in fact, high school CTE programs propel students into a variety of postsecondary education options in addition to a four-year university degree. Some head off to community colleges to study for two-year associate of arts or associate of science degrees or to enroll in certificate programs. Others enter apprenticeships; still others enter trade schools. The point is that the shifting economy has made it very clear that the kinds of jobs that pay a living wage require a level of education above and beyond high school.’”

From the Albert Shanker Institute (he was a former president of the American Federation of Teachers): Are Stereotypes About CTE Crumbling? “Today, states continue to use a typology with roots in the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, which classified students as ‘vocational’ or ‘academic’ depending on their curriculum concentrations. [The] focus on academics ultimately was incorporated into the Perkins Vocational Education Act of 1984, but the conceptual divide remained in place, even as Voc Ed evolved into career and technical education. The NRCCTE’s new classification method presents eight different categories of CTE credit takers, rooted in 21st century realities.”

Governor Mark Warner had this to say in 2005 in Virginia in the report Remaking CTE for the 21st Century (see page 29): “[For] me, the importance of career and technical education was based on trends I had seen emerging for several years in private business—namely the increasingly technical requirements for jobs that had once been viewed as semi-skilled or even unskilled. The fact is that while a high school diploma was enough to earn a decent living at the dawn of the 20th century, it is insufficient now. Career and technical training beyond high school is an imperative in today’s economy.”

A 2007 paper on dropout prevention from UC Berkeley titled Can Combining Academic and CTE Improve High School Outcomes in CA? explores unifying academics and career education: “[We] view the high school dropout issue as part of this bigger challenge: reconstructing high schools so that more students will find the experience meaningful and motivating, and so that more have a desirable range of postsecondary options when they graduate. In particular, we focus on programs that attempt to prepare students for work and for further education, simultaneously.“

So career technical education is for all students in today’s world. It provides them with an education that combines workplace skills with academics. This gives them realistic options in both their chosen careers and in higher and continuing education.


“Pearson, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers, Canada” OECD

Finally, two videos worth watching:

Stereotypes,” from Ohio’s OnScene CTE Program dispels the myth that CTE doesn’t make a student both career and college ready.

And “Career Technical Education—Making the Difference” from CareerTech and NASDCTEc.  “See how Career Technical Education is positively impacting students across the nation as they progress towards college and career. This video underscores CTE’s achievements and potential to help our nation in this global economy and helps break down the stereotypes and show the difference that is possible with CTE.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: