As Schools Tackle Coronavirus Pause, Don’t Forget Career And Technical Education Students.
At this juncture, nearly all schools in this country have been shut down, forcing teachers, families, and students to grapple with some form of crisis schooling. The need for teachers to teach and students to learn at a distance has sparked discussion of many issues. How do schools keep contact with students who have little or no access to the internet? How do teachers construct useful materials while holding in place inside their own homes? How do parents adapt to this involuntary version of home schooling?
Some of the biggest discussions, from the local level all the way up to the federal department of education, have centered on the challenge of providing crisis schooling for students with special needs. But there is one other group of students who face unique concerns, and there has been far less discussion about how the coronaviral hiatus will affect them—career and technical education students.
There is an obvious problem. One cannot practice welding, frame a house, or take a patient’s blood pressure over the internet. While CTE students do a great deal of book work (more, perhaps, than many folks assume), there is a hands-on element that is critical to their education.
The director of the school told me that the state has made the software education package Edgenuity available to them to cover some of the academic areas. Edgenuity has been around awhile, particularly in the area of credit recovery (making up missed credits), and it is not without controversy stemming from questions about how easily it can be gamed (including access to online answer banks like this and this). The director is also looking for other sources for materials that may help, working with sending schools and the state to “offer a plan that is as rigorous as we can.” But as with many aspects of crisis schooling, the local district is largely left on its own to solve the problems of crisis schooling.
That’s helpful for preparing for the coming years, but the roughly 12 million CTE students in the US (particularly seniors) have more immediate concerns about completing their actual training. The state has also canceled the major CTE tests, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) and the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) tests. While these are tests that students could not prepare for under current conditions, they are also tests that provide industry credentials.
On all levels, officials and educators are looking for creative solutions to the problems posed by the great coronavirus pause of 2020. Here’s hoping that some of that creative thinking is directed at CTE programs, whose students stand to lose an important chunk of their education.