Career Pathways for ALL Students

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

Join me LIVE ON FACEBOOK MONDAY AT 6PM to discuss Career Technology Education in MCPS.

As a teacher at Thomas Edison High School of Technology, I believe that every student can benefit from a career pathway approach. Unfortunately, many students, families and even teachers and staff don't know about the amazing opportunities we have at Edison, and soon at Seneca Valley High School. And in dozens of CTE programs in high schools all over the county. There's probably one in your home school.

Or, people think that our 18 career-focused programs are designed for students who are not college-bound, not "college material." Nothing could be further from the truth. More than 70% of Edison students attend colleges and/or technical schools. Many others become successful entrepreneurs in industries where six-figure salaries are common and job growth is booming.

So, how can we make more students aware of these programs?


We need a common, systemwide approach to sharing information. I talk to high school teachers and counselors all the time who know little to nothing about them. Knowledge is greater at schools that have their own in-house CTE programs – like Academy of Health Professions programs available at Sherwood, Paint Branch, Kennedy, Watkins Mill and Clarksburg, or Automotive Technologies at Damascus, or Aviation Management at Magruder. But even in those schools, there is a persistent attitude that says CTE programs aren’t for everyone – that if a student is college-bound they shouldn’t waste their time in a CTE program – even if a student has strong interest in a CTE opportunity.

We need to shift that thinking. How is it NOT valuable to any student, college-bound immediately post-high school or not – to graduate from high school with two valid medical licensures (in my course, students can obtain Certified Medical Assistant and Certified Nursing Assistant licensures while in high school – certifications that would cost them nearly $10,000 to obtain from Montgomery College)? Or a cybersecurity or network operations/IT national certification? Or NIOSH and ACE certifications and a construction sciences apprenticeship? Or a cosmetology license? All of those provide not just real-world preparation to immediately enter high-demand professions, but they’re also a great way for a student to become independent and financially ready for whatever comes next for them – including pursuing a college degree.


I would very much like to see a program in which recent graduates, who are using the career preparation they earned in MCPS to pursue their goals, go on a ‘road show’ to all 40 middle schools, along with clear materials that show how to create a path through high school that includes a CTE program. Show students the art of the possible, and the science of how to make it happen for them. As with so many things in MCPS, better communications, accessible to all parents, highlighting the real benefits and opportunities of CTE programs for ALL students, would be welcome. Ensuring those materials are widely and reliably shared, in many forms, formats, and forums, is also essential. A great opportunity isn’t an opportunity at all if a student doesn’t know about it.


Our current model of CTE instruction requires students to commit to a year or more of triple period instruction at Edison, spending half their school day with us, and half at their home school. Because of the triple period format of Edison (including transportation time to/from Edison) MSDE graduation requirements are also roadblocks to many students who would otherwise pursue a CTE program.

At the state level, I would like to see a much more pragmatic assessment of CTE curricula, and how the requirements of CTE programs legitimately satisfy the goals of MSDE graduation requirements, but currently aren’t allowed to be used to satisfy MSDE graduation requirements --- except as electives. There is a solid argument to be made that all of our Academy of Health Professions (AOHP) courses should satisfy a science credit. Many of our programs – like architecture – with slight modifications – could legitimately satisfy a math credit. Graphic design should be available to satisfy a fine art credit. Network Operations and Cybersecurity each should satisfy a tech credit. With its extensive physical training component, Law Enforcement and Leadership could satisfy a PE credit, and on and on. The lack of common sense thinking about how CTE programs can satisfy graduation requirements can foreclose CTE opportunities for many students, especially those with a passion for courses that are only available as electives in MCPS, like the arts.


Within MCPS, the lack of communication and planning between the 25 comprehensive high schools and Edison is incredibly disruptive to instruction, and has real impacts on student progress and achievement. When a teacher has a packed curriculum and schedule, deadlines to meet so that students can move on to the next level of learning or hands-on professional opportunity, and students are erratically absent without prior notice due to home school events and requirements, the pace for all students slows, and valuable opportunities are lost. Currently, there is no method or model for the comprehensive high schools to routinely and proactively share with Edison events and requirements that will prevent students from traveling to Edison from their home high school. Testing dates, school-required events, senior requirements – 25 different high schools with 25 different schedules and NO consistent, reliable method of sharing that important information with Edison, or each other.

I would very much like to see a standard systemwide approach to scheduling regular events, common to all comprehensive high schools, that disrupt the high school instructional day – like MISA, PSAT and other testing, senior requirements, etc. – so that even if you have multiple students in multiple high schools, the testing dates and modified schedule days will be the same at all high schools. That way the instructors at Edison, and starting in the fall Seneca Valley, can plan around the home school disruptions, adjust the pace of instruction to minimize the impact of days with high absenteeism, and keep on track to achieve program goals and requirements.

Let's make Career Technology Education work for all students!

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