High Quality CTE Programming

State-recognized Programs of Study 

In Minnesota, a CTE program of study follows the Perkins V federal law defining it as a coordinated, non-duplicative sequence of academic and technical content at the secondary and postsecondary level. It must also: 

  • Incorporate challenging state academic standards 
  • Include both academic and technical knowledge and skills that are aligned with state-approved frameworks, including employability skills 
  • Be aligned with local and regional needs 
  • Progress in specificity (beginning with all aspects of an industry or career cluster) and lead to more occupation- specific instruction 
  • Have multiple entry and exit points that incorporate credentialing 
  • Culminate in the attainment of a recognized postsecondary credential 

Minnesota leadership has supported and promoted the updating of program of study criteria to broaden the impact of CTE programs. This includes the development of a new State-Recognized Programs of Study User Guide which contains a complete set of tools to support consortia in developing state-recognized programs of study.  

In addition to providing rubrics to enhance program quality, the purpose of the user guide is to: 

  • Define minimum criteria, self-evaluation, and continuous improvement rubrics that align with national and state education efforts encouraging systemic reform in academics/liberal arts and sciences and CTE 
  • Provide leaders with steps to follow to enhance and strengthen CTE programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels within a Perkins consortium, and 
  • Support the Minnesota consortium model as it emphasizes continued leadership and collaboration – multiple secondary high schools and college(s) working with regional business/ industry partners and government agencies 

Perkins V calls for states to offer CTE programs of study. All state-recognized programs of study are high quality and meet rigorous standards. Each program of study must meet the seven minimum requirements described in the framework below to be recognized by the state as a program of study. 

  1. Course standards must accurately align to the academic, technical, and employability skills learners must master for entry and success in a given career pathway. (Content standards, frameworks, and competencies that define what students are expected to know and be able to do to enter and advance in college and/or careers comprise the foundation of a program of study.) 
  2. Programs of study incorporate active involvement from an integrated network of partners. (Ongoing relationships among education, business, and diverse community stakeholders bolster program of study design, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance.) 
  3. Secondary programs meet MDE program-approval requirements and incorporate courses that lead to postsecondary credits/credentials. Secondary programs have appropriately licensed teachers and advisory committees, develop and ensure access to equitable student leadership opportunities, and provide career exploration activities leading to postsecondary credits/ credentials. 
  4. Postsecondary academic programs meet Minnesota State board policy and Higher Learning Commission requirements. (A cohesive arrangement of college-level credit courses and experiences, designed to accomplish predetermined objectives, lead to the award of a degree, diploma, or certificate.) 
  5. Materials, equipment and resources: facilities, equipment, technology and materials used in the program of study reflect current workplace, industry and/or occupational standards and practices for installation, use, maintenance, and safety. 
  6. Program of study incorporates authentic work experiences at the secondary and/or postsecondary level that are valued by industry. (Program of study engages students in authentic work-based learning experiences that demonstrate progressive occupational learning aligned to industry workforce needs.) 
  7. Program of study development, improvement and advocacy are supported by findings from a comprehensive local needs assessment. (Systems and strategies for gathering, analyzing, and disseminating needs-assessment data are effective for guiding the improvement of programs of study, and available in plain language to enhance use by stakeholders for program of study advocacy.) 


CTE Program Approval and Review 

CTE programming quality is assessed through the initial approval process and a regular cycle of program review. Methodology is different for postsecondary and secondary programs. 


Postsecondary Approval and Review 

To be eligible for Perkins funding, postsecondary programs must be approved by the Minnesota State Academic Programs unit and appear in the official program inventory. CTE programs must also be assigned a designated CTE-approved Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) code. 

More information on postsecondary CTE program approval is available on the Minnesota State Academic Programs webpage.

While program approval is the responsibility of the Minnesota State system, program review is the responsibility of the individual institution. For all Minnesota State campuses, this review shall encompass all instructional areas and be structured according to discipline, academic program or program cluster, department, or other academic unit. 

In addition, while the actual process is the responsibility of the campus, it must be in compliance with the accreditation standards of the Higher Learning Commission’s Criterion for Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement: “The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.” 


Secondary MDE Program Approval and Review 

Program approvals are submitted to MDE on a five-year cycle (Minn. R. 3505.2400) and must be received prior to November 1 in the cycle year. Program approvals received after November 1 will continue to be reviewed by department staff; however, it may not be possible to process those submissions in time for inclusion into the CTE levy. 

Although all districts within a consortium need to submit program information according to the five-year cycle schedule, best practice is to submit any program and/or course updates to MDE on an ongoing basis so that the most current information is maintained. A current list of all approved programs and courses (Career and Technical Education Program Approval Database) as well as a copy of the program approval form can be found on MDE's program approval webpage

The secondary five-year cycle schedule for program review (see Table 3 below) provides a list of each secondary Perkins consortium and the year in which their districts will need to submit program approval forms to MDE.


Secondary Connections to Funding Sources

Programs approved for school districts that are part of a Perkins consortium become eligible to request federal Perkins funds from their consortium. Districts with approved programs also have the ability to access the state CTE levy (Minn. Stat.124D.4531). This non-discretionary levy provides funding resources to cover program costs for staff, professional development, travel, and instructional supplies.

Finally, as a part of federal accountability reporting requirements, each district is required to annually submit program data to MDE. Data submitted to MDE needs to align with the programs and courses listed in the program approval database. Specifically, only/all approved programs taught by an appropriately licensed CTE teacher need to be included in the annual Perkins (P-file) data submission. 

Once received, P-file data are integrated into the Perkins database. P-file data are summed across a student’s entire high school experience in order to determine concentrator status (see Accountability, Reporting and CTE Data for specific details). The funding formula for each consortium consists of number of concentrators, census data, area square mileage, and the number of households in poverty. It is critical that P-file data for these approved programs is submitted accurately on an annual basis to MDE.