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Programs of Study

A program of study is a comprehensive, structured approach for delivering academic and career and technical education to prepare students for postsecondary education and career success.

Why Programs of Study?

Nearly half of all high school students in Oklahoma are enrolled in career and technology education. These students must be prepared to participate in a 21st century economy that is fast paced, technology-driven, knowledge based and global. The future of these students, and the future of career and technical education, lies within the connection of academic and technical coursework to the world of work and the movement in Oklahoma from Programs of Study to Rigorous Programs of Study.

The National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) calls for CTE to be delivered through comprehensive Programs of Study aligned to the National Career Clusters Framework. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) has identified the Program of Study as one of their key practices for the Technology Centers That Work and High Schools That Work initiatives. The Harvard University report, Pathways to Prosperity, calls for every young adult to develop an individualized plan that includes a Program of Study.

The essential concepts of POS represent an opportunity to align initiatives like Common Core State Standards, Common Career Technical Core and Teacher and Leader Effectiveness while building upon CTE improvement efforts including Tech Prep, School-to-Work, Career Education, academies and others. Programs of Study are a hallmark of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 and initial indications are that POS will play a larger role in the future reauthorization of the Perkins legislation.

A Design Framework

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV) calls for states to offer “career and technical programs of study,” which may be adopted by local educational agencies and postsecondary institutions, as an option to students (and their parents as appropriate) when planning for and completing future coursework.  These programs, at a minimum, must:

  • Incorporate and align secondary and postsecondary education elements,
  • Include academic and CTE content in a coordinated, non-duplicative progression of courses,
  • Offer the opportunity, where appropriate, for secondary students to acquire postsecondary credits, and
  • Lead to an industry-recognized credential or certificate at the postsecondary level, or an associate or baccalaureate degree.

Each local recipient of Perkins funds must offer at least one career and technical program of study.

A graphical representation of a Programs of Study.

To help states and local recipients meet these requirements, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), in collaboration with major national associations, organizations, and states, have formulated a “career and technical programs of study design framework (framework).”   The framework identifies a system of 10 components that, taken together, support the development and implementation of effective programs of study.  Although all 10 components are important, they are neither independent nor of equal priority:  State and local program developers must identify the most pressing components for state or local adoption, taking into consideration their relative need within their educational context.



Federal, state, and local legislation or administrative policies promote POS development and implementation.

Effective legislation and policies should:

  • Provide for state and/or local funding and other resources, such as professional development and dedicated staff time, for POS development.
  • Establish formal procedures for the design, implementation, and continuous improvement of POS.
  • Ensure opportunities for any secondary student to participate in a POS.
  • Require secondary students to develop an individual graduation or career plan.
  • Provide resources for long term sustainability of POS.


Ongoing relationships among education, business, and other community stakeholders are central to POS design, implementation, and maintenance.    

Collaborative partnerships should:

  • Create written memoranda of understanding that elaborate the roles and responsibilities of partnership members.
  • Conduct ongoing analyses of economic and workforce trends to identify statewide (or regional) POS to be created, expanded, or discontinued.
  • Link into existing initiatives that promote workforce and economic development, such as sector strategies and other activities supported by the Workforce Investment Act.
  • Identify, validate, and keep current the technical and workforce readiness skills that should be taught within a POS.


Sustained, intensive, and focused opportunities for administrators, teachers, and faculty foster POS design, implementation, and maintenance.  

Effective professional development should:

  • Support the alignment of curriculum from grade to grade (9-12) and from secondary to postsecondary education (vertical curriculum alignment).
  • Support the development of integrated academic and career and technical curriculum and instruction (horizontal curriculum alignment).
  • Ensure that teachers and faculty have the content knowledge to align and integrate curriculum and instruction.
  • Foster innovative teaching and learning strategies (see #9 below).


Systems and strategies to gather quantitative and qualitative data on both POS components and student outcomes are crucial for ongoing efforts to development and implement POS.

Well-designed accountability and evaluation systems should:

  • Include the “10 Essential Elements of A State Longitudinal Data System” identified by the Data Quality Campaign. (1)
  • Provide for administrative record matching of student education and employment data (i.e., Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records).
  • Yield valid and reliable data on key student outcomes (indicators) referenced in Perkins and other relevant federal and state legislation.
  • Provide timely data to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of POS.


Content standards that define what students are expected to know and be able to do to enter and advance in college and/or their careers comprise the foundation of a POS.

Rigorous college and career readiness standards should:

  • Be developed and continually validated in collaboration with secondary, postsecondary, and industry partners.
  • Incorporate essential knowledge and skills (i.e., academic skills, communication, and problem-solving), which students must master regardless of their chosen career area or POS.
  • Provide the same rigorous knowledge and skills in English and mathematics that employers and colleges expect of high school graduates.
  • Incorporate industry-recognized technical standards that are valued in the workplace.
  • To the extent practicable, be internationally benchmarked so that all students are prepared to succeed in a global economy.


Non-duplicative sequences of secondary and postsecondary courses within a POS ensure that students transition to postsecondary education without duplicating classes or requiring remedial coursework.  

Well-developed course sequences should:

  • Map out the recommended academic and career and technical courses in each POS.
  • Begin with introductory courses at the secondary level that teach broad foundational knowledge and skills that are common across all POS.
  • Progress to more occupationally-specific courses at the postsecondary level that provide knowledge and skills required for entry into and advancement in a chosen POS.
  • Offer opportunities for students to earn postsecondary credit for coursework taken during high school.


Credit transfer agreements provide opportunities for secondary students to be awarded transcripted postsecondary credit, supported with formal agreements among secondary and postsecondary education systems.

Well-development agreements:

  • Provide a systematic, seamless process for students to earn college credit for postsecondary courses taken in high school, transfer high school credit to any two- and four-year institution in the state that offers the POS, and transfer credit earned at a two-year college to any other two- or four-year institution in the state that offers the POS.
  • College credit should be automatically transcripted at the college for high school students so that they can transfer seamlessly into the postsecondary portion of a POS without the need for additional paperwork or petitioning for credit.
  • Describe the expectations and requirements for, at a minimum, teacher and faculty qualifications, course prerequisites, postsecondary entry requirements, location of courses, tuition reimbursement, and credit transfer process.


Guidance counseling and academic advisement help students to make informed decisions about which POS to pursue.

Comprehensive guidance counseling and academic advisement systems:

Are based on state and/or local guidance and counseling standards, such as the National Career Development Guidelines.

  • Ensure that guidance, counseling, and advisement professionals have access to up-to-date information about POS offerings to aid students in their decision making.
  • Offer information and tools to help students learn about postsecondary education and career options, including prerequisites for particular POS.
  • Offer resources for students to identify their career interests and aptitudes and to select appropriate POS.
  • Provide information and resources for parents to help their children prepare for college and careers, including workshops on college and financial aid applications.
  • Offer Web-based resources and tools for obtaining student financial assistance.


Innovative and creative instructional approaches enable teachers to integrate academic and technical instruction and students to apply academic and technical learning in their POS coursework.  

Effective teaching and learning strategies should:

  • Be jointly led by interdisciplinary teaching teams of academic and career and technical teachers or faculty.
  • Employ contextualized work-based, project-based, and problem-based learning approaches.
  • Incorporate team-building, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication skills, such as through the use of career and technical student organization (CTSO) activities.


National, state, and/or local assessments provide ongoing information on the extent to which students are attaining the necessary knowledge and skills for entry into and advancement in postsecondary education and careers in their chosen POS.

Well-developed technical skills assessments:

  • Measure student attainment of technical skill proficiencies at multiple points during a POS.
  • Employ industry-approved technical skill assessments based on industry standards, where available and appropriate.
  • Employ State-developed and/or approved assessments, particularly where industry-approved assessments do not exist.
  • Result in the awarding of secondary credit, postsecondary credit, or a special designation on a student’s high school diploma.
  • Incorporate performance-based assessment items, to the greatest extent possible, where students must demonstrate the application of their knowledge and skills.



  1. The 10 elements are:  (1) statewide student identifier; (2) student-level enrollment data; (3) student-level test data; (4) information on untested students; (5) statewide teacher identifier with a teacher-student match; (6) student-level course completion (transcript) data; (7) student-level SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement exam data; (8) student-level graduation and dropout data; (9) ability to match student-level P-12 and higher education data; and (10) a state data audit system.

Framework information from Perkins Collaborative Resource Network

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