Dr. Simonson and Dr. Kamiar Kouzekanani co-authored the presentation for the Research wing (ACTER) of the conference. The Role of Career and Technical Education in Early College High Schools was published in 2012, by Simonson. She began her research agenda several years ago, when Beeville ISD and Coastal Bend College were awarded a Rural Early College High School (ECHS) grant. At that time, Early College High Schools in Texas were almost exclusively academic track institutions.
Simonson believed that the ECHS model would be a perfect fit for Career and Technical training, especially for small rural school districts with limited resources. Initially, she found the regulatory bodies of TEA and the Texas Higher Ed Coordinating Board were resistant to support the broad implementation of Career and Technical components in ECHS. Through the use of a Delphi study, the conversation between regulators, practitioners and Career and Technical advocates was facilitated over the course of a year. “By the end of the study, the regulatory members of my study were more receptive or at least more aware of the potential for dual credit Career and Technical,” according to Simonson.
Her study predicted trends that were not foreseen in 2010 when she started the Delphi research project. Simonson explained that the Delphi technique is used to predict or identify in areas where quantitative techniques are not viable. This year, her dream for a Career and Technical ECHS was realized when the Harold T. Branch CT Academy opened in Corpus Christi.
Interestingly, her recommendations for legislative action were also largely incorporated in the body of the sweeping education reform enacted into law in 2013 through Texas House Bill 5. Simonson said that, in the early spring of 2013, the ACTER review panel had not planned to include her research in symposium. After House Bill 5 passed, the ACTER committee added Simonson’s research findings to the conference agenda. “It was a matter of good timing, because of House Bill 5, my research was relevant,” she concluded.
Texas is one of few states in the country that tend to lead educational trends. St. Mary’s, Beeville ISD and Coastal Bend College have been at the forefront of this shift to Career and Technical dual credit training thanks to ACE and its predecessor, SDA.
The ACTER organization is interested in hearing more about the organizations and programs that appear to be leading the curve in Texas. Simonson was asked to submit a session proposal on her work in robotics and dual credit for the 2014 ACTER conference to be held in Tennessee. When asked if she sees Tennessee in her future, “It was an honor to be selected once. I am not sure that lightning will strike twice, but we will see.”