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District Insights: Coursework options on horizon for NY students

October 9, 2017 - 11:26 am Updated: October 9, 2017 - 01:37 pm

More options for required coursework are on the horizon for students in New York State. The Board of Regents recently approved regulations that will allow students to meet middle school Career and Technical Education coursework requirements through a broader range of subjects.

Previously, state regulations required that all students completed a rigid series of coursework by the end of grade 8 that provided for the first formal introduction to CTE in two specific disciplines: Family and Consumer Sciences and Technology Education. Following the Board of Regents’ ruling, students will be able to achieve these coursework requirements through the study of business, agriculture, health sciences and/or trade and technical subjects (actual courses will vary by school district).

The Board’s decision was based partly on the challenges faced by many districts with the past requirements. A primary challenge is that many districts across the state, including Hudson, are faced with a shortage of certified teachers in the areas of FACS and Technology Education. Furthermore, middle level student experiences in CTE are limited to FACS and Technology Education, which represent only two of six CTE content areas, and may not directly address other relevant CTE content areas in business, health sciences, agriculture, or trade and technical education. Therefore, there are limited opportunities to create sequential programs that align to high school pathways and course offerings.

In order to address the challenges above, the Board added flexibility to allow the CTE requirement at the middle level (grades 5-8) to be met in new and innovative ways. According to the Board, the flexibility will: 1) provide students with a broad-based introduction to Career and Technical Education through the lens of the six CTE content areas; 2) allow districts to meet the unit of study requirement utilizing any of the six CTE content areas; and, 3) guide districts on utilizing available certified teachers and resources to repurpose the CTE experience at the middle level to better prepare students for available pathways in CTE, Science, Technology, Engineering & Math, and Career Development & Occupational Studies at the high school level.

Additionally, expanding the middle level requirement to all six CTE disciplines will potentially increase the pool of teachers eligible for recruitment into open positions. That is, teachers certified in trade and technical subjects, business, agriculture or health sciences would become possible candidates for middle level positions.

Overall, districts will be better positioned to design meaningful programs in any CTE discipline, thus creating a link between middle and high school programs. Districts that have effective FACS and Technology Education programs can continue to meet the unit of study requirement in the traditional manner. Districts that wish to explore new ways to deliver this instruction can do so by creating articulated programs that better align to available CTE, STEM or CDOS pathways at the high school level.

These new regulations will go into effect beginning in the 2018-19 school year. It is important to note, however, that districts will not be able to shift overnight to support new CTE, STEM and CDOS opportunities. There are many moving parts in a transition such as this, including staff and budgetary support. In Hudson, we do have the potential to expand opportunities in CTE courses and our CDOS program. However, there is still work to be done to implement more STEM programs.

Currently, members of the FACS, Business and Technology Education professional associations, with support from NYSED and the CTE Technical Assistance Center, are working to enhance existing middle level FACS and Technical Education by creating a foundational course titled “Introduction to CTE.” The goals of this course are to bridge middle level and high school CTE, expose students to all CTE content areas, and foster acceleration into graduation pathways (CTE, STEM, CDOS) that capitalize on students’ interest.

Dr. Maria Suttmeier is HCSD Superintendent of Schools.