The Power of National Board Resources in Career and Technical Education

July 19, 2018

“When I first came on, no one believed that an automotive kid would be going to college,” says Matt Watkins, principal of the Arvin Center, a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center serving students in Oldham County, Kentucky. “But anymore, those jobs in the automotive industry require higher order skills like computer science. The high-paying jobs on the line are becoming automated; but that doesn’t mean kids aren’t still interested in working in this field.”

From his first year overseeing the Arvin Center in 2009-10, Matt has envisioned CTE as more than an alternative track for students who are not perceived as “college material.” Instead, Matt sees CTE as a path toward greater equity for all students to receive an education that is both practical and highly academically rigorous.

Since that first school year, Matt has had a clear vision of what the Arvin Center could be: a center for problem-based learning where 21st century skills were honed and students were given academic opportunities that would prepare them for college and career–rather than tracking them toward college or career, as had been the previous thinking.

Considering the reforms Matt had already brought to the Arvin Center, it made sense that when he was first introduced to the National Board resources through the Oldham County pilot with the Network to Transform Teaching (NT3), he immediately recognized the potential for his CTE teachers. While CTE teachers tend to be accomplished practitioners, many were certified through alternative routes and may not have studied the art of teaching in great depth.

Just as he had seen a way to bridge college and career, Matt now saw the National Board resources as an opportunity to bridge his skilled and knowledgeable industry practitioners with the skills and knowledge of accomplished teaching.

“For me it was all about professional development. When I read the green book [What Teachers Should Know and Be Able To Do], I knew this would be more powerful for our PLCs than discussions solely about student data,” Matt reflects. “This was about what makes good teachers and good teaching, and for our industry folks who have never been trained in pedagogy, this could be huge.”

In his inaugural year implementing a professional learning model rooted in the National Board resources, Matt created a self assessment for his teachers, using statements about what “accomplished teachers” do from the Five Core Propositions. He then had his faculty rate themselves in response to these statements as either “Developing” or “Rockstar.” This, he explains, was to relieve some of the anxiety surrounding the National Board certification process and show his teachers that the resources were really about reflection and improvement.

From there, Matt had his teachers choose one or two focus skills from their self assessments on which to base their Professional Growth Plans, and to set his focus for walk-throughs or more formal observations.

Tangie Kelsey, a teacher in the Biomedical Academy at Arvin, says, “I did use [the National Board Knowledge of Students Standards] to make more of an effort to get to know each student. I’ve always known that these relationships were important but the standards helped remind me.”

Tonya Burns, another teacher at Arvin, reflects that the certification process can be especially powerful for CTE teachers. She says, “I think as a CTE teacher [pursuing National Board certification], I will have a completely different experience in that I will force myself to reflect and question more purposefully on pedagogy.”

With early adopting teachers like Tangie and Tonya leading the way, Matt believes that all of his CTE teachers will grow to be more accomplished “even if it’s just through casual conversations at the lunch table.”  And this past year was just the beginning. His plan going forward is to continue to use the National Board resources with intentionality to make sure every teacher grows toward deeper reflection and more accomplished teaching, even if they are nearing retirement.

These high expectations for growth for his faculty show a great respect for Career and Technical Educators. Matt says, “The industry folks are great practitioners in their fields and this work will open the door for their growth in pedagogy.” Just as he respected CTE students enough to raise rigor and expectations for their programs, so Matt has raised expectations for his CTE teachers.

Now students who enroll in coursework at the Arvin Center can expect not only to be well prepared for both college and career, but also to reap the benefits of accomplished teaching.

Matt’s vision truly exemplifies the growth that can come when leaders hold all teachers and students to high expectations for deeper learning and improvement.

No matter where you work, learn more about how you could use National Board resources in professional learning in your school or district.

Sarah Yost, NBCT

Sarah Yost, NBCT has taught middle school ELA in Kentucky for 13 years. She has served as her district’s secondary teacher lead for National Board support and is a member of the Kentucky National Board Network. Sarah is passionate about the power of National Board resources to transform professional learning and bring about greater equity for students. Follow her on Twitter @SarahYost1