Career & Technical Education

NYS Technology Education Framework Initiative - 1/06


Mission and Goal

To evolve to a technologically literate society, educational entities in NYS require a framework for developing a continuum of instruction in technology education for the future.


Technology education in NYS enjoyed a renaissance in the mid 1980’s and 90’s that produced a number of innovative courses and programs. These programs were viewed as models of contemporary technology education. But various events over the last 10-15 years have combined to create an environment not friendly to technology education in schools. Since adoption of the NYS Learning Standards in 1996, no State-developed technology-related curriculum development has taken place introducing new technologies or techniques to the classroom. Turnover by school district administrations has created administrators unaware of the potential and value of technology education programs. Recent changes to Commissioner’s Regulations and revised graduation requirements have turned the system into a patchwork.

Accountability systems layered on schools have placed increased emphasis and pressure on academic areas with testing requirements. This increased pressure has created an atmosphere putting greater importance on certain Learning Standard areas over others.

Through the foresight of many, the standard for technology and technology education programs was linked to mathematics and science. Illustrating the interconnectedness of these three subjects the Mathematics, Science, Technology (MST) Learning Standards has created a dynamic force for demonstrating student knowledge. While mathematics and science have had a long history in education, technology education is a relatively new subject with less stature and acceptance. Added to this the testing pressures placed on mathematics and science education, technology education has been overlooked as a tool for improving student achievement.

Recent efforts to create awareness about and value for technology education have been less then successful partly due to the general population not having a clear understanding of what technology is. With these issues to be addressed by stakeholders in the field, it is imperative that a clear structure exists to build a case for full acceptance of technology education as a vital curriculum component.

Rationale for Developing a Framework

The notion of a framework is consistent with the structure of the Learning Standards. While the 28 Learning Standards identify what students should know and be able to do at various levels, they do not elaborate on contextualized content for specialized subjects such as technology. Subjects like science use broad terms to organize its dynamic content; Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. The current environment for technology education has evolved into an array of courses with titles that may or may not appear appropriate to school district curriculum decision makers. To be consistent with other subject areas, technology education needs to identify its dynamic content.

Through this effort a better understanding and sense of purpose and place in the overall school curriculum will help to build capacity and consistency across the State. Administrators and teachers will be better positioned to identify their roles and responsibilities in a large or small educational system that allows all parties to have a common vision.

The added benefit of a defined framework for multiple grade-levels improves chances of transferable skill and knowledge retention and continued interest for students wishing to pursue technology-related postsecondary education or career opportunities.

Content, Context, and Standards

A tremendous hurdle for school districts and teachers in all subjects and especially teachers responsible for technology education is moving to a standards-based educational system. Technology education has traditionally and logically been content-focused. While content remains the primary factor in what influences technology teachers, other factors in a dynamic system require serious consideration. School and student accountability systems are centered on assessment of their respective Learning Standards as a measure of student performance. A system of accountability will continue for the foreseeable future no matter what political influences may be imposed through educational reform. The reality is that school districts are driven by these accountability measures and are consequently judged by governments, communities and the general public. Untested subject areas must carve a place for themselves within this system to remain viable and relevant in the overall educational system. Not addressing the concerns of the school district and governmental agencies will lead to the demise and eventual extinction of these subjects that support the positive developmental aspects of every student. This change in our thinking must lead us to addressing standards through what is taught.

For many this effort seems impossible. If what we do is content-driven how can we change the focus? Developing a standards-based system does not mean we need to discard everything we are currently doing. But we do need to change the way we think about content. If our goal is achievement of the standards, content needs to be reviewed for its effectiveness at meeting those standards. Old content needs to be viewed with a critical eye as to its ability to address standards in a coherent manner. Achievement of standards through relevant content must take precedent over content that has been aligned with standards after the fact. Deciding on content that addresses specific aspects of a standard requires attention to its place in an overall plan or goal of the program. A framework that identifies broad areas of content within a specific context helps curriculum developers address standards in a uniform way yet provides flexibility for expanding a dynamic subject area like technology.

To redirect the effort towards this goal a model is suggested that incorporates existing content-focused programs but provides a path for future program changes that better addresses the standards-based school curriculum.

The use of Technology Content Organizers (TCO) evolved from national efforts to identify the most critical areas of technology essential to the Unites States’ economic future in a secure environment. Over the past decade these seven areas have been periodically reviewed by the federal government  to reaffirm there importance to the country.

Descriptions of Technology Content Organizers (TCOs)

Technology Content Organizer (TCO)


Materials Substance of physical objects
Manufacturing Producing physical objects
Information and Communications Producing, storing, manipulating, and moving information
Transportation Physically moving people and objects
Living Systems Creating and modifying biological processes
Energy Powering the other categories
Environmental Quality Dealing with environmental consequence of past, present and future activities

In these most basic technology areas we can find familiarity with our current content-focused courses and programs while leaving the door open for advancements and innovation in future programs through development of rigorous standards-based curriculum. As a framework for content within a standards system the opportunities to develop a continuum of instruction in technology education for all grade levels can be quickly realized. At an elementary level of the standards each TCO becomes the theme for investigation into age appropriate activities and experiences that link science and mathematics. At the middle-level students have developed cognitively enough to understand these content areas in a larger context of systems operations and application in the real world. High school courses related to these areas have the potential for expanding individual student interests beyond academics into career options and pathways.

Next Steps

The timeline for this initiative has both short term and long term benchmarks. In the short term (2006-07) the initiative will address the framework in an outline format to generate discussion. Regional and annual conference presentations by Education Department staff will provide updates on the initiative components. Research will continue on developing sample models of delivery that schools can adopt.

Long term (2007-10) the initiative will provide more detailed curriculum guidance for each TCO at the three standards levels of achievement; elementary, intermediate and commencement. Along the way recommendations will be made that may have an impact related to:

  • Pedagogical models, scheduling
  • Facilities/equipment, Safety
  • Assessment, (program and student)
  • Professional development, certification
  • Resources (online research, grants, etc.)
  • Youth leadership options, after school clubs, competitions
  • An Action Research Model for Classroom Implementation (standards-based curriculum development and instruction)

Comments on any aspect of this initiative may be sent to Eric Suhr at esuhr@mail.nysed.gov or Phil Dettelis at pdetteli@mail.nysed.gov

Resources for Additional Investigation

International Technology Education Association (ITEA), Technology for All Americans Project:
http://www.iteaconnect.org/TAA/TAA.html external link icon

International Technology Education Association (ITEA), Standards for Technological Literacy:
http://www.iteaconnect.org/TAA/Publications/TAA_Publications.html external link icon

National Academy of Engineering, Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology:
http://www.nae.edu/nae/techlithome.nsf/ external link icon

To research additional information on the federal critical technologies initiative, go to http://www.ida.org/stpi/pages/about.html external link icon and go to the OSTP site and look under the documents and policy tabs at the top for related topics.

“New Forces At Work”- RAND Monograph 1998:
http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1008/index.html external link icon

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Last Updated: March 17, 2011