Institute of Politics

CTE and Project-based Learning

The environment in which our students are learning is rapidly changing. We need to provide today’s students with the skills they need to adapt to whatever opportunities are present throughout the course of their careers. Increasingly, educators and other stakeholders are recognizing that, although basic skills such as reading, writing, and math will always be critical, many students will also need skills that have historically been taught in career and technical centers and through project-based learning.

As a result, although the regulations and rules governing career and technical education (CTE) in Pennsylvania have not been materially altered in the past six years, the landscape of CTE has changed significantly since the 2011 release of the Institute of Politics’ status report on the governance and funding of CTE in the Commonwealth. Schools have worked independently and collaboratively to explore new ways of offering programs that improve student engagement and achievement while at the same time preparing them more effectively for unknown or rapidly changing careers. Many schools outside of career and technical centers are starting to offer career-based curricula by integrating project-based learning into all grade levels. This report highlights examples of just a few of the schools in our region—both traditional high schools and career and technical schools—that are taking such steps.

The Institute of Politics is not unique in recognizing the importance of CTE and project-based learning. In just the past couple of years, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development’s “Mapping a Pathway: Regional Career and Technical Education for Energy and Manufacturing Occupations” and the Education Policy and Leadership Center’s “High School Career and Technical Education: Serving Pennsylvania’s Student and Workforce Needs” have provided valuable insight into how CTE and project-based learning can address the education and workforce issues facing our region’s students and employers. Additionally, the State Legislature has taken an interest in the issue and a subcommittee of the House Education Committee recently released findings based on a series of hearings on CTE in the Commonwealth.

Although intended to be an update to the Institute’s 2011 report, which was workforce-based, this report attempts to highlight the connections between improving educational achievement and preparing students to take part in the workforce of tomorrow through the new methods of integrating career education and project-based learning that are occurring within our region. The report showcases these innovations to promote greater understanding of these practices among education and workforce stakeholders.


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