Orange County teachers look to merge core academic content with career technical education (video)

Last week, high school teachers from core subjects including history, math, science and English gathered with their counterparts in career technical education for three days of intense research and collaboration at National University.

The group’s mission? To develop new secondary courses that combine real-world technical training with core academic subjects and meet UC and CSU admissions requirements.

Hosted by the Orange County Department of Education, the University of California Curriculum Integration (UCCI) Institute drew nearly 40 regional educators from K-12 schools and community colleges to National’s Costa Mesa campus March 24 through March 26 as part of an ambitious statewide effort aimed at merging traditional academics with relevant and engaging career technical education.

To envision what that might look like, imagine a student taking an American history class in the context of engineering the Panama Canal, or a high school biology course taught from the perspective of biotechnology as it’s used in DNA Forensics by law enforcement.

Jeff Hittenberger, OCDE’s chief academic officer, says this work has the potential to be a game-changer in promoting college and career readiness.

“For years, American education has been split into kind of two sides — one focused on careers and the other focused on academics,” Hittenberger says. ”That has changed dramatically, and today we believe that all students need both college and career preparation.”

Aimed at supporting that objective in California’s high schools, the UC Curriculum Integration was established nearly five years ago in the UC Office of the President with funding from the state Department of Education. Since 2010, more than 500 educators across the state have taken part in at least 16 UCCI institutes like the one at National, developing a total of 68 integrated courses.

Of those courses, 38 have earned UC’s endorsement for “a-g” admissions credit and are currently being offered in 160 California secondary schools. Many meet the more rare “a-e” requirements, making them extremely valuable for students. (You can check out the list of courses here.)

With its own UCCI institute, Orange County becomes the latest region in the state to engage in the new model, which happens to align nicely with a countywide initiative that will expand career pathways for students from kindergarten through college.

The latter initiative, known as OC Pathways, is currently bringing together 14 school districts, nine community colleges, two major universities, four ROPs, three Workforce Investment Boards, numerous community partners and more than 100 Orange County businesses.

For more information about the UCCI program, visit, and be sure to check out the video above from last week’s workshop in Costa Mesa.