To meet the demands of an evolving new economy, federal policy must support twenty-first century teaching and learning opportunities. This includes ensuring that all students receive not only opportunities to develop academic knowledge in the nation’s schools, but also a wider range of skills and competencies that are valued by employers and essential to creating a strong talent pipeline.

One way some schools are meeting these goals is through college and career pathways that pair classroom instruction with work experiences in the field. Such approaches are supported at the federal level by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Educational Improvement Act (Perkins), the nation’s largest federal investment in secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE).

The House Education and Workforce Committee is scheduled to mark up the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act—a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize Perkins—this week, and several organizations working in the deeper learning space sent recommendations to the Committee to help bolster the bill.

The letter explains that “high-quality CTE programming requires greater alignment and integration between education and workforce training systems that move beyond traditional rote preparation to systems that create innovative and relevant pathways to postsecondary education and the workforce.”

It also notes the existing need for candidates with deeper learning skills, stating that “both research and employer demands also emphasize the importance of developing skills such as creativity, communication, and teamwork.”

The recommendations, which are evidence-based and informed by high-quality research, aim to ensure that students are provided deeper learning experiences to prepare them to become critical thinkers, complex problem-solvers, effective communicators and collaborators, and self-directed learners, that will position them to succeed in postsecondary education endeavors.

With these goals in mind, the recommendations focus on six primary areas within the law:

1.Recruitment and retention of CTE teachers

Recommendation: Support a strong CTE educator workforce by addressing CTE educator shortages and implementing evidence-based strategies to attract, prepare, develop, and retain CTE educators.

2.Professional development for CTE teachers and non-CTE teachers

Recommendation: Encourage collaborative professional development between CTE and non-CTE teachers that support the integration of CTE, rigorous academics, and project-based or contextualize learning opportunities for students.

3.A robust authorization level for innovation and research

Recommendation: Provide adequate funding for innovation and research that allows for experimentation with and deployment of proven and promising strategies to improve outcomes for CTE concentrators.

4.Work-based learning and employer engagement

Recommendation: Strengthen the role of employers to ensure CTE programs of study align with industry needs, encourage the facilitation of high-quality work-based learning, and respond to evolving labor market demands.

5.Integrated student support services

Recommendation: Strengthen student supports that address the comprehensive needs of special student populations, including underrepresented student subgroups.

6.Early college and dual-enrollment programs

Recommendation: Expand student access to dual-enrollment programs and early college high schools through CTE programs to significantly improve the secondary and postsecondary education outcomes of students.

The recommendations were signed by Alliance for Excellent Education, Center for American Progress, Council for a Strong America, Jobs for the Future, Learning Policy Institute, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Center for Innovation in Education, National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc., Opportunity Institute, and Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

Read the full letter and see details of each recommendation here.