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Rural CTE Council Convenes at Western Illinois University


WIU College of Education and Human Services Dean Eric Sheffield Welcomes the Rural IL CTE Advisory Council
WIU College of Education and Human Services Dean Eric Sheffield Welcomes the Rural IL CTE Advisory Council.

The Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools was thrilled to host members of the Rural Illinois Career & Technical Education Project Advisory Council as well as special guests from Western Illinois University and the Illinois State Board of Education for an in-person meeting to discuss new data on the status of CTE programs at small and rural districts. This marked the first time members of the council had an opportunity to come together face-to-face to continue working with AIRSS on understanding the needs and equity gaps of rural CTE programming. The meeting took place at the new Seymour Center for Rural Education at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.



ISBE Director of CTE Marci Johnson Addresses the Rural IL CTE Advisory Council
ISBE Director of CTE Marci Johnson Addresses the Rural IL CTE Advisory Council.

This was a special meeting for many reasons. Not only was this meeting the first major event hosted by the Seymour Center since its inauguration in 2023, but the center was able to showcase its capacity as a hybrid working space, allowing for attendees from around the country to participate. Additionally, Marci Johnson, ISBE Director of CTE, Eric Sheffield, WIU Dean of the College of Education and Human Services, and Jim LaPrad, WIU Director of the School of Education, were able to attend and kickoff the meeting with their own reflections on the work at hand. Last, and crucially, the council was able to review and discuss the recently completed Rural IL CTE Survey, the first outreach initiative of its kind that sought to catalog the challenges of specifically rural CTE programs.



Rural CTE Advisory Council members in discussion with AIRSS Executive Director David Ardrey.
Rural CTE Advisory Council members in discussion with AIRSS Executive Director David Ardrey.

Over the course of the morning, the council members and special guests shared their experiences with career and technical education in small and rural schools before turning their reflections to the survey itself. They highlighted a number of topics they felt required further investigation and discussion, including: the lack of space and facilities for CTE in rural schools, replicating successful CTE models across different programs of study and grade levels, and exploring better methods for connecting students’ education with their next steps after graduation. They were also able to make some recommendations on how to improve rural CTE, such as: growing more creative and innovative ways to recruit CTE teachers, building better mechanisms for supporting current teachers, and building more awareness of CTE in students and communities.


AIRSS was happy to work with WIU to host the council for this crucial meeting, and looks forward to using the council members’ insight to expand the Rural IL CTE Project. The council will continue to meet monthly to review the Project’s ongoing work and suggest next steps. If you’d like to learn more about the CTE Project or share your own small and rural school CTE perspectives, please reach out to Program Director John Glasgow: john@airssedu.org

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