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ND Rethinking Education - Learning that Works!

During Governor Doug Burgum’s first North Dakota State of the State Address, he was adamant in communicating his vision to reinvent government, including K12 education. This really should come as no surprise as interwoven in his campaign dialogues were comments promoting innovation, educational options, idea generation, technology infusion, entrepreneurship and partnerships.

In reflecting on Governor Burgum’s address, it was his statement, “Education really has to be focused on creating skills we need for tomorrow, not the skills for yesterday.” that really caught my attention. Actually, as the Director of Cass County Career and Technical Education (CTE), it was music to my ears.

CTE, formally known as vocational education, has been around for decades. Unfortunately, it has not always been embraced as a pathway for all high students, and at times, divided students between those that could and those that could not. In reality, CTE’s core beliefs support Governor Burgum’s vision. Program curriculums are aligned with current trends in business, college, and work, thus making it one of the most viable educational vehicles to prepare students for their future and not the past. CTE and academics must work together.

The Past

The Future

High School Focus

Secondary, Post-secondary and Workforce

6-7 Program Areas

16 Career Clusters

79 Career Pathways

Academic vs. Vocational

Academics and CTE for college, careers and life


High School, College, Work, Lifelong learning

Here are some quick CTE facts:

  • CTE seeks business and industry perspectives through advisory committees and partnerships to align content, technical skills, industry certifications, and work placements.
  • ND CTE concentrators completing two or more high school credits in a career pathway graduate at a higher rate 94.8% versus their peers at 87.2%.
  • 84% of CTE student concentrators study to further their education or employment.
  • Technology is integral to the curriculums, not only for delivery, but for use in solving problems and developing technical skills.
  • CTE’s business focus develops an employability mindset, innovation, and the know-how to run a successful business.
  • CTE works collaboratively between secondary and post-secondary programs to create transition, dual credit, and prior knowledge credit.
  • CTE students can earn industry certifications based on program options.
  • Project-based learning motivates and engages student learners.

ND policymakers and educational leaders, in this legislative session and in the rethinking of education, let’s think about the following: 1) let’s view CTE as an essential foundation for all students to apply academics, experience workplace scenarios, and explore career interests for the future and not just as an elective, 2) let’s rethink education by recognizing rigorous CTE courses as credible options and alternative credits for high school core graduation requirements, and 3) let’s reduce the divide between academia and CTE by valuing the importance of both and creating options for students to prepare for their chosen pathways versus the one-size fits all model. The time is right, the time is now!

Denise Jonas