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, MIT or a Ph.D. 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 past 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 at http://www.tennessee.gov/education/cte_council/doc/biennialreport1011.pdf.
CTE’s success can also be measured by the increase in interest among students. In the past six years, enrollment in CTE has increased 15 percent. While some help has been given to post-secondary programs, secondary school CTE programs have not received an influx of state funds in nearly 30 years.
Parents and students often point out that high school education classes tend to lack “real world” application. And, quite frankly, while it is 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.
Education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Students are not all looking at the same future on the same timetable. Without an educated workforce prepared for the 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.
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