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Career Clusters and the Arts

Brad Hull

In Narric Rome’s earlier post, he summarized a very exciting meeting that spoke to the heart of this blog salon—arts and careers.

One of his components mentioned career clusters and as a former career and technical education secondary school director, I wanted to describe this work in more detail for those unfamiliar with it, using the arts cluster as an example. (It should also be noted that the field owes much to the work of the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education).

Career clusters categorize all possible careers into 16 groupings called clusters and further subdivides them into pathways. The cluster most germane to the arts is called Arts, Audio/Video Technology & Communications. Its definition and pathways can be found here.

The career clusters work created standards. There are standards necessary for every cluster (called Essential Knowledge and Skill Statements), additional standards needed that are unique to a given cluster (here is the one for the arts cluster) and standards that are necessary and unique to each pathway (here is one for the performing arts).

The career clusters work created templates for programs of study. These are non-duplicative sequences of coursework spanning grades 9–14 that will lead to an industry recognized credential in a chosen career. These templates are further refined and expanded at the state and local level and utilized in career academies. Here is the program of study for visual arts.

Putting aside the career cluster content area in the arts and considering this whole body of work, many points of convergence emerge between this work in career clusters and the arts. Here are a few:

1.  Both think of standards in terms of depth of knowledge rather than merely a flat, uni-dimensional equivalency most common among academic standards.

2.  Both emphasize the practical application of education: to improve your art and improve your world and/or to gain career credentials and contribute to your field.

3.  Both conceptualize their work long-term whether in 9th through 14th grade programs of study or in understanding that perfecting an art is a lifetime study.

4.  Both recognize that success comes only through effectively integrating the academic, technical, theoretical, and practical.

With these similarities, what great things can we create together?

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