Effective Career Education & Workforce Development

Our Plan for Excellence

“Effective Career Education and Workforce Development: Our Plan for Excellence”, is an effort of the Central Westmoreland CTC administrative team to articulate the new direction that our school has charted. As an administration team, we have been mindful to build upon the success of effective past policy and practice while responding to new and changing expectations. These expectations come from the community, the public education system, and the labor market. In answering this call, we have initiated an array of activities related to the current movement in our country toward an improved system of public education. By organizing our beliefs about this process, we enable others to participate as we “Plan for Excellence”. Please use this essay as a guide to join in on the journey.

Our philosophy regarding the role of CWCTC is that we exist to serve all of those who have a stake in our activities. This includes students, families, school districts, employers, government, and post-secondary schools that are located within communities in and near Central Westmoreland County Pennsylvania. Further, within the scope of our activities we believe it is our responsibility to work in cooperation with related entities in meeting the needs of our stakeholders. Through Strategic Planning and the Technical Centers That Work model for school improvement (based on High Schools That Work) we are transforming our school and it's programs. These activities are designed to have a positive impact on the groups identified above. Through defining our Plan for Excellence- we wish to outline our plans as we face a challenging future.

Effective Career Education and Workforce Development: Our Plan for Excellence contains four guiding principles. Embracing each is vital to realize our goal of preparing individuals to be college and career ready through our efforts. The guiding principles are:

  1. An Established Culture of Excellence and Success
  2. High Quality Educational Programs
  3. Confidence of our Community
  4. Active Engagement of Children and Families.

The first two guiding principles are internal and relate to practices that occur within the confines of CWCTC. The third and fourth are more external in nature and address the way we relate to individuals and groups outside of CWCTC. The following discussion further defines these four guiding principles and outlines efforts and initiatives we have designed to adhere to each of them.

  1. Established Culture of Excellence and Success: To operate an environment of teaching and learning effectively, we must continuously work to maintain and improve the Culture of our school. This is done by promoting high standards and expectations for our students as well as staff. Holding ourselves accountable to high standards for curriculum as well as conduct is paramount to this effort. Promoting high standards is observable to others when faculty, staff, and administration fulfill their duties in that manner. If we expect our students to perform at the highest possible level, then we as role models must do so as well. We also expect all of our students to challenge themselves to learn in a meaningful way within their ability level. And lastly, we must maintain a sense of ownership for student achievement; by embracing this responsibility, we cultivate the Culture of Excellence and Success that is needed to be effective.

    • Strategies:

    • We began in 2008, a book read initiative that has included the following titles: “Other Ways to Win”, 3rd edition by Gray & Herr; "Never Work Harder Than Your Students", by Jackson; and "The Differentiated Classroom" by Tomlinson. This effort provides our faculty, staff, administration, JOC, Superintendents, Principals, and Guidance Counselors with the selected titles and involves group activities.
    • We are maximizing the performance of faculty, staff, and administration by embracing a higher level of personal accountability. This includes addressing practices in our building that are inconsistent with the ideals of a Culture of Excellence and Success. These are just a few of the ways in which we have worked to embrace this guiding principle. .

    • Future Strategies: We will continue to revise staff development activities to enrich the knowledge and competency of our educators as well energizing and empowering them to provide the highest level of instruction. When necessary, we will continue to address and assist those who experience barriers to maintaining the Culture of Excellence and Success we desire. We will look for ways to promote best practices from within our own building as well as practitioners from the field.

  2. High Quality Educational Programs: Learning is at the heart of what takes place at Central Westmoreland Career & Technology. This guiding principle for Effective Career Education and Workforce Development speaks to the activities that take place at our facility as well as offsite experiences which relate to teaching and learning. Our curriculum and course pedagogy, whether it is CTE content, academic content, guidance/development, or any combination of these must be standards-based and delivered though proven methodologies. Further, it takes an up-to-date and well maintained facility to operate enriching high school Career & Technical Education programs that able to produce well prepared graduates. So guiding principle #2 also encompasses the need for maintaining a first class facility in terms of the building and hardware as well as the curriculum and instructional strategies used by the faculty. Effective shared leadership is a key, because it takes focused efforts to manage the day to day operation of the school while staying current with changes related to government and labor market forces that impact high school CTE. Historically, CWCTC has been a leader in high school CTE in terms of operating High Quality Educational Programs. Evidence of this exists throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond in looking at contributions made by our graduates in their respective fields. Many of our graduates have become leaders in industry as well as government sectors and education. However, in these changing times, the accomplishments of the past can only serve as a foundation to build upon in responding to current demands and a global economy. These demands include high stakes testing and increased accountability.
    • Strategies:

    • In the fall of 2008, Central Westmoreland Career & Technology Center joined 19 other CTC's in Pennsylvania to make up the first cohort of schools participating in a statewide reform effort. The "Technical Assistance Program" has provided CWCTC with professional development, curriculum development, and other resources needed to improve high school Career & Technical Education. There are now 54 of the 85 CTC's in Pennsylvania participating within three cohorts to improve CTE for all students.
    • Through implementation of the Technical Centers That Work school improvement model, we have embraced our responsibility to address guiding principle #2. Our activities related to TCTW have included participating in the Department of Education Technical Assistance Program (TAP) network, sending teachers to statewide workshops for using literacy and numeracy strategies in the classroom, staff development using MAX Teaching strategies, analysis of coursework taken by CTE students at their sending high school, and a study of data from performance indicators such as PSSA math, PSSA reading, and NOCTI assessments.
    • To work with our Joint Operating Committee to proceed with plans to update the school to become a 21st century learning center.

    • Future Strategies: Our process to further enhance Quality Education Programs will include use of Continuous Improvement efforts through the use of "Getting Results". The adoption of the PDE programs of study, and full implementation of the Technical Centers That Work model for school improvement. Further, we will continue to study and improve the operation of our building and pursue the process of renovating our facilities.

  3. Confidence of our Community: It is widely accepted that Career & Technical Education programs for secondary school students have negative stigma and stereotypes attached to them. To deny this reality fuels misunderstandings and perpetuates the notion. The truth is that CTE in its current form is a relatively new component to the system of public education in Pennsylvania- forming in the 1960’s. As such, many challenges have been experienced throughout our development that re-enforce negative views of CTE. These negative views if not dispelled, present barriers that keep us from providing Effective Career Education and Workforce Development. It is only through earning the Confidence of our Community that we can begin to overcome the negative views of high school CTE. The “Community” we refer to includes the geographic area in and near the central of Westmoreland County. But it also refers to specific subgroups that have a strong interest in the outcome of our efforts. In particular, the Public Schools and Labor Market systems that are located within the area defined above. These institutions and sectors have inherent interest and a significant stake in the operation of CWCTC. These are key stakeholders with whom we need to focus efforts that foster and maintain confidence in Central Westmoreland Career & Technology Center. The degree that we have their confidence will be dictated by how well we can demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs. This must be done through measurable data and easy to observe outcomes. We welcome a critical analysis of our programs by these sub-groups because we respect the investment they have in what we do. To quote a former Career and Technical Administrator from another Pennsylvania CTC, “It is no longer enough to just keep the seats full and the building looking good”. We suspect that sentiments like that had an appropriate place in the past as high school CTE evolved. This is no longer the case; high school CTE programs are needed now more than ever in responding to the realities of the global labor market. We at CWCTC embrace this and endeavor to work hard to earn and maintain the Confidence of our Community.
    • Strategies:

    • Sharing information openly and honestly regarding the programs and activities of CWCTC with students, parents, members school districts, employers, and the community at large. This will be accomplished through maintaining a high quality Website, regularly published newsletters, open house, and other visitation opportunities.
    • Active involvement with the Westmoreland/Fayette Workforce Investment Board. CWCTC students, faculty, staff, and administration have and will continue to participate in WIB activities.
    • Focused efforts to use and analyze data to improve student achievement and guide instruction. For some time now, school districts have been subject to scrutiny to generate results based on multiple data sets like PSSA results, graduation rates, attendance rates, and more. We operate in this transparent manner as well, and make data driven decisions to respond to the needs of our member school districts. We have and will continue to provide analysis of the data sets mentioned above as well as collecting other information to use in improving services offered through CWCTC.

    • Future Strategies: We will conduct a review of our student matriculation, retention, and graduation rates to establish baseline markers from which to improve. We will continue using the Technical Centers That Work model of school improvement to increase the rigor and relevance of our programs as reflected in increased PSSA and NOCTI data. We will also establish and collect other indicators of confidence from our member school districts. Ongoing collection and analysis of this data will guide and influence decisions that impact the curriculum here at CWCTC. We are developing strategies to access our alumni community with the hope that an organization can be formed and serve as a resource that will benefit the community as a whole.

  4. Active Engagement of Children and Families: The fourth guiding principle to Effective Career Education and Workforce Development is the Active Engagement of Children and Families. This operating belief does not function by itself; it is dependent upon the other three. Our view is that it takes: a Culture of Excellence and Success, High Quality Educational Programs, and the Confidence of our Community to attain the level of Active Engagement of Children and Families necessary to be effective. This relationship starts but does not end with the students that elect to attend CWCTC. Great care and energy must be placed in meeting the needs of these students. Their needs extend beyond instruction and learning activities. Student services must be available to address the personal, emotional, psychological, career development, and the other needs of our students. We must also maintain opportunities for families to participate in their child’s education here. But our responsibility in for this guiding principle extends beyond the children and families that are actively involved with CWCTC. We are accountable to the children and families from our member school districts that have a right to the educational opportunities offered here. This means that we have a responsibility to offer career education services to children in grades K-8 from our member school districts as well. In the past, our efforts were focused on “recruiting” 8th and 9th grade students from member districts to attend CWCTC. Armed with an understanding of labor market realities and data that shows an underperforming system of post-secondary education- we believe that children now need a structured set of learning activities and experiences that focus on career education and development. This is an area we are prepared to address. By doing so and continuing a focused program of student services, we will succeed in adhering to guiding principle #4.
    • Strategies:

    • Our participation in the Technical Centers That Work initiative has provided many tools to help us adequately address this. Within the “Ten Key Practices” of the TCTW/HSTW model, nine of the practices directly tie into the notion of “Engagement”. We have a delivery of Guidance Counseling services so that students keep the same counselor during their entire time at CWCTC. This promotes a trusting relationship and familiarity to both the student as well as their family.
    • In responding to student discipline, underlying causes and not just the offense against the code of conduct are addressed. This means working with sending schools as well as outside agencies to help our students who have made negative choices gain needed support and interventions.
    • Revised practices associated with some of our family programs like “Parent Night” for new students. We have a component for small group interaction and greater involvement with our teachers.
    • To look at the needs of students in grades K-12 from the sending districts in terms of their career development needs, we have begun collecting data regarding the implementation of the Pennsylvania Standards for Career Education and Work. Reports have been compiled for the districts who returned completed surveys to further study the needs of our member districts.
    • We recognize the achievement of earning a certificate from CWCTC through a special evening ceremony that begun with the class of 2010. This formal event serves as a rite of passage from CWCTC into the world of post-secondary education and/or directly into the labor force.

    • Future Strategies: Efforts to maintain quality student services and high levels of involvement will continue. As we realize more complete implementation of the TCTW model, there will be positive changes in these areas. We are involved in the creation of a position to provide Career Education services to our member districts to help meet the developmental needs of their students in grades K-8.

We hope the perspective you gained from reading this essay sheds light on the philosophy of Central Westmoreland Career & Technology Center's leadership team. We are fortunate to be a school with a rich history of meeting the needs of those we serve. We will use the strength of our past as we build our future. Thank you for joining us in this journey.


The CWCTC Administrative Team