District feels the CTE push



Students in John Fuller’s engineering program work in class. While pathways in RJUHSD continue to evolve, CTE classes are not currently a graduation requirement.

This article is the first of a two-part series on the evolving status of CTE programs around RJUHSD and beyond. Look out for the May 6 edition for the second article, centered on the emphasis placed on CTE pathway development within schools.


Granite Bay High School IT manager Marc Imrie gave a presentation in January in front of RJUHSD board members with the intent of pushing Computer Science, currently a Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway, to become a district-wide graduation requirement.

Imrie believes there is value in diversifying enrollment within CTE courses, but encouraging students to take career-related courses doesn’t guarantee participation.
“If there were a CTE graduation requirement we’d have a larger group of students directed into our courses,” Imrie said. “Currently, many students make choices about classes solely based on graduation requirements and then GPA.”

Nearly a decade ago, current head of curriculum and instruction Jess Borjon, spurred on by CTE teachers, pitched a similar idea when he suggested adding a general CTE graduation requirement of ten credits, equating to two semesters of classes, to the district.

According to Borjon, his efforts were stalled, as supporters of student choice believed the amendment was “too restrictive” and limited students’ ability to select classes according to their individual needs. The discussion was tabled, in combination with several other suggested additions to the district’s requirements for graduating students.

“A significant challenge to addressing this issue is there are advocates for adding a variety of graduation requirements and a faction that believes student choice is more important than adding requirements,” Borjon said.

In contrast to RJUHSD, Red Bluff Joint Union High School District, located in northern California, recently implemented a graduation requirement stating all graduates, as of 2019, must earn 20 credits in a single CTE pathway of their choosing.

The change occurred amid school-wide schedule adjustments to a modified block schedule which, according to CTE director Lynette Corning, offered students more “flexibility with more room to choose CTE and elective courses,”.

Corning said that, historically, RBJUHSD had always protected its CTE programs from any monetary cuts.

“Many school districts cancelled their ROP programs for lack of monies [but] Red Bluff High School limited any cuts to the CTE program,” Corning said, “The school felt it was important to incorporate and expand.”

Bret Richards, a CTE machining and forming technology instructor at Red Bluff High School, witnessed the CTE pathways grow in student enrollment and in curriculum during the course of the change, which took place during a three year period.

Students work with equipment in their engineering class. While other school district make it a requirement, students at RHS do not need to complete CTE courses like Engineering in order to meet their graduation requirements.

“The students that were strictly on the academic track with AP and college prep courses have had to spend some time exploring the world of technical education that they do not get with this type of requirement not being in place,” Richards said.

New standards passed by the CA department of education evaluate college or career preparedness for California high schools through several measures, one of which is the number of students within a district who complete a CTE pathway.

Schools with a greater percentage of graduates who enroll in and finish a three course CTE pathway receive an increased ranking on California School Dashboard, a tool that calculates the total performance of K-12 schools state-wide.

According to Richards, the switch to mandatory CTE requirements is an accordance with the emphasis California is placing on college and career preparedness, and has increased the school’s ranking “in those areas of measurement,”

Students at Arrowhead Union High School District have a fully developed CTE program with over 15 department members teaching full time. Students must complete two CTE credits. According to CTE coordinator Brenda King, the district supplements a community need for students with job skills that are transferable to the real world, and supports student achievement through their CTE program.

“Our school, community and business partners have a strong appreciation for CTE courses,” King said. “There is a great need of workers in these areas and there is support and emphasis from the state for high quality CTE programs.”

Some Placer County school districts, as well as individual high schools in the area, already ask that students complete a minimum ten credits of CTE classes to receive their diploma, including the high schools in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, and Phoenix High School of the Western Placer Unified School District.

Many CTE teachers show continued interest in making their classes more accessible to the general student population and desire to see CTE pathways progress to meet the growing need for a vocational requirement, including showing support for a CTE-oriented graduation requirement.

“Every…suggested requirement is grounded in a thinking of what’s best for students’ future,” Borjon said. “And every one of these has real merit. It is not uncommon for a conversation around any of these suggestions to be brought up by teachers within their own community.”