Beyond the books: building success with career and technical education

March 1, 2019 - Whether it’s learning how to cook a perfect soufflé, gaining certification as a volunteer income tax preparer or graduating high school as a certified internet website development associate, Duval County Public Schools students have a plethora of ways to achieve career success and college readiness through its career and technical education (CTE) programs.

While many people are familiar with the district’s two nationally recognized, career academy magnet schools – Frank H. Peterson Academy and A. Philip Randolph – Duval County Public Schools actually offers 90 CTE programs and 204 CTE courses in high schools and middle schools across the district. This includes:

  • Applied Cybersecurity at Sandalwood High School

  • Commercial Art Technology & Digital Design at Baldwin Middle/High School

  • Global Logistics and Supply Chain Technology at Robert E. Lee High School

  • Information and Communications Technology at Oceanway Middle School

  • Aeronautical Science at Ribault High School

Several of the district’s programs have been highlighted in the media and received national recognition for their excellence and innovation.

A. Philip Randolph and Frank H. Peterson were both honored for their cosmetology and culinary programs respectively, achieving “National Model Academy” status by the National Career Academy Coalition. This recognition indicates the programs received top marks across 10 national assessment standards like teaching and learning, professional development and sustainability.

Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School and Andrew Jackson High School both became featured centerpieces in Jacksonville’s regional newspaper, The Florida Times-Union, for their CTE programs.

The newspaper showcased Mayport’s fish farming program where students are raising tilapia and koi fish, caring for eels, winning global underwater robotics competitions and working collaboratively with scientists at the University of North Florida to study the effects of micro-plastics in sharks in Northeast Florida waters.

The Times-Union also revealed how the video gaming and cybersecurity program at Andrew Jackson High School are transforming the school into a technology magnate hub, attracting students from all over Duval County. During class, students learn game design theory, sound engineering, graphics, animation (video game) and ethical hacking (cybersecurity), while after class and during lunch, they huddle together in student-led clubs to host video gaming competitions and refurbish old computers.

These – along with culinary arts students competing in district-wide food truck competitions and business students completing tax returns for fellow students as certified tax preparers – are just some of the shining examples of how students are flourishing in CTE programs in the district.

Building and enriching CTE options for students is vital according to the district’s director of CTE programs, Ryan Rewey. Through hands-on and engaging curriculum, real-world and project-based learning, and internship and certification opportunities, these programs create pathways to career success as well as college readiness.

“The idea that CTE is only for job preparation is false,” said Rewey. “It’s true college and career preparation. It can benefit every student.”

Rewey points to national data from the Association for Career and Technical Education about CTE programs:

  • The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent.

  • 91 percent of high school graduates who earned 2-3 CTE credits enrolled in college.

  • Taking one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of students dropping out of high school.

National data also illuminates the economic rewards for CTE students, Rewey says. According to research in Texas, Colorado and Virginia, graduates with technical or applied science associate degrees outearn bachelor’s degree holders by $2,000 to $11,000.

That is why the opportunity to earn industry certifications is so important.

The district currently offers 36 industry certifications through its CTE programs. This includes Certified Personal Trainer; Adobe Certified Associate – Premiere Pro; Certified Food Protection Manager; Biotechnician Assistant; Certified EKG Technician; MSSC Certified Logistics Technician; FAA Private Pilot; 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator; and Certified Internet Web Business Associate.

With approximately 18,400 students currently enrolled in CTE programs in the district, Rewey said he is excited about how CTE is continuing to evolve. His goals for the future of CTE in Duval County Public Schools is to continue expanding programs, courses and certification opportunities. Rewey said he hopes to make CTE options available to elementary school students moving forward.

“We have so many options available, but I’m mission-focused in continuing to grow,” said Rewey. “Particularly with our elementary school students. Having exposure to career and technical education at every level provides students an avenue to develop skills that will make them future ready.”

For more information about the district’s CTE program, please visit

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