Tennessee College, Career and Technical Education Makes Significant Strides in 2020-21

Thursday, November 18, 2021 | 11:53am


State Focuses on Student Readiness to Boost Postsecondary Success

NASHVILLE, TN— Today, the Tennessee Department of Education released the 2020-21 College, Career and Technical Education Overview, which highlights the state’s strategic initiatives designed to increase post-secondary opportunities for Tennessee students and align K-12 education with workforce and higher education needs to prepare students for the future.

With a focus on College, Career and Technical Education (CCTE), the state has made tremendous strides over the last year in removing obstacles to future success for Tennessee students through robust investment, career-oriented programming and partnerships across the state. 

“Tennessee families, educators, schools, districts, and industry and business leaders should be proud of the work and progress we are collectively making to help prepare our kids for the future,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Over the past year, we have continued to make significant gains towards helping Tennessee students find pathways to further their education and establish careers to help our state's economy thrive and help them reach their fullest potential. By preparing students for competitive, high-paying jobs and careers, and by helping connect businesses and industries with a skilled labor force to meet their needs, we are able to make a positive impact on the lives of Tennesseans.”

CCTE impacts the state’s economy, school districts, students, and all stakeholders through ambitious projects and a tireless commitment to improvement. This report serves to highlight the achievements of the past school year and to preview what is still to come, which is highlighted below. 

Economic Impact

Through expansion of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, CCTE gives all students—including those from historically marginalized populations—the opportunity to earn while they learn. These initiatives not only assist in breaking the cycle of generational poverty, they also help guarantee well trained employees for state manufacturers and other vital businesses. 

The Pathways to STEM Apprenticeships for High School CTE Students Grant awarded $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) to establish competency-based registered apprenticeship programs in STEM-related fields that include advanced manufacturing and computer science while allowing students to simultaneously participate in paid, on-the-job training as well as high-quality instruction.

In addition to the pilot program at Gestamp, Chattanooga, a combination welder program was launched at Oshkosh Defense Corporation in Jefferson City, and an information technology program was established at Maryville City Schools. These programs saw 29 high school graduates who completed the programs seamlessly transition into a postsecondary institution or into the workforce following the 2020-21 school year.

“STEM Designation has been a huge morale boost at our school and has given some of our teachers confidence to try new things that did not have that confidence before. It has also given a sense of pride to our entire community,” said Dr. Hans Ballew, Principal of Northview Primary School, Sevier County Schools. “Thanks to the grant from the state for STEM Designation we have been able to build a fully interactive spaceship in our STEM room that is loaded with grade level content that is tied to state standards and will boost student achievement as evidenced on the state tests. The STEM Designation has actually expanded our vision for what we can be and do and our teachers are all moving in the same direction. We have a strong sense as a unit that we can literally do anything and it all began with STEM designation.”

“Being a STEM designated school helps us to focus on intentionality and specificity in a work based and academic curriculum,” said Rodrick Gaston, Executive Director of Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, Shelby County. “This allows us to build a rapport with our students, parents, and community which provides us with leverage for partnerships and enrichment activities that promotes problem solving and critical thinking. Venturing into the 21st century STEM related careers, we have equipped our students to be the next future entrepreneurs and innovators.”

School District Impact

The department provides intentional support for local school districts to improve access to high-quality CTE programs. This includes helping LEAs to align their programs with local, regional, and state labor market needs via the Tennessee Certified Pathways; improving training for STEM educators, providing robust instructional resources for CTE classroom use, and continuing to provide ongoing professional development for teachers and administrators.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education has also been a major component of the Tennessee Department of Education’s work in 2020-21, which saw the state create K-8 computer science standards training as well as STREAM summer mini camps to support learning loss remediation and student acceleration.

“I utilized Defined Learning with my 4th grade students during STREAM Summer Mini Camps. The resources for camp were user friendly and organized in a way for us teachers to quickly access what was needed,” said Shelby Cumberland, 4th grade teacher at Ashland City Elementary STEM Academy, Cheatham County Schools. “My students really enjoyed the career videos provided by Defined Learning. I look forward to being able to use this resource in the future.”

Student Impact

Tennessee students can earn valuable industry credentials that lead to expanded options for future job placement. The state has made significant investments in expanding access to opportunities, like AP Access for ALL which, in its first year, has given nearly 1,200 high school students across 102 districts access to advanced placement classes virtually. 

The state has also invested in ACT preparation for students. Scores on the ACT, one of the nation’s top college admissions tests, are directly linked to college and university admissions as well as to scholarships. By partnering with the University of Tennessee, Martin, the state continues to offer free online ACT workshops to help educators and students become prepared for the ACT.

Future Impact

The future of Career and Technical Education in Tennessee is brighter than ever with ambitious projects and initiatives on the horizon. Through reimagining the high school experience; expanding access to Advanced Placement courses; improving how CTE data is collected and used; becoming more strategic about engaging younger students in career exploration; and being even more intentional in how we listen to—and learn from—Tennesseans from diverse backgrounds, CCTE will continue to keep our state’s workforce strong for years to come. 

Over the last year, the department made an initial $30 million investment in its Innovative School Models program to establish collaborative partnerships across the state that accelerate and increase student attainment of high-quality, in-demand postsecondary credentials.

"Life changing opportunities, that is the best way to define how the IHSM Grant has impacted so many students already in Hamblen County,” said Chuck Carter, CTE Supervisor, Hamblen County Schools. “We have students who were disengaged and on the verge of becoming disconnected, that are now thriving and excelling to the point that they have completed their graduation requirements and are now focusing on dual enrollment and WBL placements! We can’t say thank you enough for this opportunity to create new ways to define success!”

“Traditionally, agricultural opportunities occur in rural areas. The IHSM grant has afforded Shelby County Schools’ students access to dual enrollment, supervised agricultural experiences, and significantly more industry certifications,” said Dedric McGhee, Science Instructional Supervisor and STEM Manager, Shelby County Schools. “Our culturally diverse audience is now experiencing agriculture as an attractive, relatable field that includes drones, culinary innovations, exposure to global positioning systems, and Ag experts from all over Tennessee. Students can now see what they can truly be.”

Access the 2020-21 College, Career and Technical Education Overview here. Learn more about college, career, and technical education work in Tennessee here.

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact Edu.MediaInquiries@tn.gov.