Meeting at the Crossroads: Identifying pathways to proficiency through technical programs, mathematics and English language arts

Teachers from culinary arts, health occupations, and early childhood education programs worked for two days with mathematics and English language arts (ELA) teachers to find points of intersections where students can demonstrate proficiency of Maine student learning standards. Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have always been proficiency-based as students gain knowledge and skills that leads directly into post-secondary programs and professional licensing. Demonstrating proficiency in CTE programs often involves both an academic approach to gathering information and sharing knowledge, as well as performance assessment that reflects skill with various tools including a variety of technologies and human interaction.

Early childhood program educators - Copy
Early childhood program educators during a recent intersections work session

Technical program teachers and academic content teachers worked together to understand the goals within these three CTE programs and understand where students are demonstrating skillful application of academic content knowledge. For example, students in health occupation programs learn how to provide care for patients, pediatric to geriatric, preoperative and postoperative, in a hospital or at home. As health care providers gather information from a variety of sources including patient records, professional resources, and spoken information from colleagues and patients, they use ELA skills to synthesize information, often resolving points of conflict, and determine appropriate actions to provide both physical and mental health care.

Not every high school student participates in CTE programs, but those who do often see the convergence and application of the learning in many of their classes demonstrated in their professional learning pathway. While students have always been able to gather credits toward graduation within their CTE programs, the proficiency diploma requirements allows a broader use of a student’s learning experience at CTE schools and centers.

“What we are trying to do is a sea-change and it is a complicated process. This could have a dramatic effect on education. I am proud of the fact that I am part of the effort,” declared Josh ­­­­Gamage, a culinary arts instructor at the Midcoast School of Technology and the parent of a 16 year old high school student. Finding pathways to proficiency is complicated. Not only must there be a correlation between the language within the learning goals, the demonstration must also reflect grade appropriate rigor and complexity. The payoff for students and for teachers is enormous. Teachers engaged in this work are learning more about their own practices. For example, CTE program teachers describe their standard approach to learning being reflective of the “flipped classroom” approach that many content teachers are just beginning to explore. “In my program, students try something then reflect and analyze what they did in order to learn the concepts and the precise language,” declared one CTE teacher.

Another intersections work session to evaluate three more CTE programs is planned for March with a total of eight programs evaluated for intersections before the end of this school year. For more information about CTE and academic intersections, contact Maine DOE’s Director of Career and Technical Education Margaret Harvey at margaret.harvey@maine.gov or Director of Standards and Instructional Support Anita Bernhardt at anita.bernhardt@maine.gov.