Bill aims to bolster CTE instruction in New Mexico schools

Bill aims to bolster CTE instruction in New Mexico schools

(N.M.) Legislation that would create a seven-year pilot program to improve career and technical education in New Mexico could help establish a strong pipeline of educators to head career-oriented classrooms.

HB 91 would, among other things, allow the New Mexico Public Education Department to award grants to fund high-quality CTE programs and monitor their effect on student outcomes, and require the development of stronger teacher training.

The bill’s author, House majority leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, told lawmakers that while many teachers have expressed a desire to enter CTE instruction, high quality professional development opportunities are sorely lacking.

“Many CTE teachers do not have access to high quality professional development that provides an integration of career technical education content with rigorous career academic understanding,” Williams Stapleton said during a recent House education committee hearing. “HB 91 will offer professional development to existing CTE teachers and training to new CTE teachers, thus promoting a new pipeline for educators entering the discipline.”

CTE and similar models such as linked learning have become increasingly popular among policymakers in recent years as a viable option for developing work readiness skills and preparing future workers for jobs that require some postsecondary education but not necessarily a four-year degree.

In some communities, efforts are being made at the local level to target specific career needs. In Maine, for instance, high school-level firefighting programs have been developed to help train and recruit young people for short staffed stations. And in states with large numbers of rural schools, including Nebraska, Idaho and South Dakota, lawmakers have encouraged schools to partner with local industry leaders.

And lawmakers in states including Arkansas, Virginia, Alabama and Wisconsin have gone so far as to adopt graduation standards that encourage or require participation in CTE, as many more in other states have increased funding to expand current CTE programs or develop new ones.

The expansion of career options included in programs in recent years combined with the development of more CTE courses offered overall by state and local education agencies, however, has led to a shortage of educators who have both the industry experience and also the academic content knowledge to obtain a CTE credential and to teach the appropriate courses.

To address that problem in New Mexico, Williams Stapleton’s bill would provide for professional development both for new and current CTE teachers that integrates CTE curricula with core academic content areas. The training must address project-based learning as well as department standards and benchmarks for CTE, and focus on the instruction of employability and soft skills.

As part of the seven-year pilot project bill, the Public Education Department would be required to administer grants to districts to establish CTE programs and provide CTE professional development for teachers. In order to qualify, CTE programs must include a number of elements, such as the inclusion of science, technology, engineering and math content; the potential for dual credit courses; and rigorous content supported with both academic standards and relevant CTE content that align secondary and postsecondary content.

HB 91 doesn’t contain an appropriation to fund those efforts, but instead would create a “career technical education fund,” which would consists of appropriations, grants, gifts and donations.

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