CUMBERLAND COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
School districts across the United States face the challenge of finding resources to sustain their Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The Cumberland County School District in rural Tennessee is better positioned than many of its peers when it comes to resources and funding for CTE.
The district currently has the 13th largest CTE program in the state, teaching courses in all 16 nationally recognized career clusters and using the latest curriculum and technology on the market.
Curriculum at Cumberland County goes through a thorough review by teachers to ensure it meets the needs of the CTE program and provides students with a comprehensive learning experience. CTE Director Chris King explained the curriculum should align closely to state academic standards, while matching students’ ability to develop new skills. The iCEV online learning platform met all the requirements on King’s checklist, and the platform quickly became a staple in many of the district’s CTE courses.
“We’re fortunate to have great facilities and the appropriate amount of equipment for every course we teach,” King said. “Some courses rely heavily on a particular text or two, but iCEV is the best match, closely aligns to Tennessee state standards and provides information that can be incorporated into the experiential portion of a class or lab.”
Many of King’s teachers were familiar with iCEV through previous work and often complimented on how the platform provided students with the ability to pursue courses at their own pace that catered to their career interests. By being able to supplement their instruction with iCEV, teachers at Cumberland County School were able to present more meaningful and actionable lessons describing potential career fields. Along with the robust courses, the teachers noted that they appreciated having the lessons, videos and tests streamlined in one central location.
“Our teachers take full advantage of the iCEV platform, and it's been incorporated into most of our classes this year," King explained.
Finding opportunities outside the classroom has quickly become a critical component for the majority of CTE programs – an approach that’s proved to be extremely valuable for students. The advantage of robust, standards-aligned instructional materials is amplified by industry certifications which allow students to pursue their college and career goals simultaneously. King stressed the importance of partnering with industry professionals and the need for states to recognize industry certifications that increase exposure to fields in need of highly skilled workers.
“It’s important for the state to recognize those students who get the experience they need for a career or post-secondary education,” King said. “It’s our responsibility to understand that we need to introduce our students to multiple tracks so that each of the new skills they learn has a direct purpose and impact on where they’re headed after high school.”
King sees the advantage of continuing to use and expand upon the offering of the industry certifications hosted on the iCEV testing platform to his students. The iCEV testing platform hosts a variety of industry certifications for multiple career fields and industries. The certifications were developed by recognized industry leaders such as Southwest Airlines, Elanco and Ducks Unlimited. Due to the rigor of the certification exam, future employers and other interested parties can be assured a certification earner possesses in-depth knowledge and skills related to the certification's specific industry or sector. Along with industry certification opportunities, several local professionals serve as advisers for the Cumberland County CTE program which allows students to gain real-world knowledge and connections that better position them for their future careers.
Statewide, Tennessee recognizes a number of certifications, but King believes adding more certifications will provide more opportunities for students to become certified in an area related to their specific field of interest. Cumberland County hopes it can work with state policymakers to recognize the opportunities the certifications hosted on the iCEV platform can provide for local businesses and students.
“We’re seeing funding flow in a way that has shown more and more people that we have focused far too long on how many kids we’re going to send to college, rather than how many kids we’re going to send to the workforce with the right training and right skills,” King said. “It’s become more important for Tennessee to promote a mentality and thought process that causes schools to take a Kindergarten-through-jobs approach by exposing students to potential career paths earlier than before so they can begin to focus on a path sooner to become more prepared for their future career.”
King is hopeful and happy to see where the CTE program in Cumberland County is headed. Over the past 25 years, he’s faced the challenge of making CTE worthwhile for every student and not just for a few. The district plans to graduate 55 to 60 percent of its students in CTE concentrations every year.
“We want to not just grow for the sake of growing, but grow in quality so that our students are well-rounded and receive additional training that will directly translate into real-life experiences,” King said. “It’s rewarding to see companies like CEV Multimedia take an idea and help districts understand what needs to be done to help improve CTE instruction, and it's nice to know there’s a collective body of people that see the importance of jobs that matter for everyone.”