Members of the Middle School Empowerment Collaborative attended the CTE Winter Conference.

Morgantown, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) joined several partners today to celebrate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month and announce a new middle school initiative during its CTE Winter Conference at the Marriott at Waterfront Place in Morgantown. The Middle School Empowerment Collaborative expands exploration, and instructional and entrepreneurial opportunities for students at a younger age. The program is one of three WVDE efforts to make CTE principles and practices available to middle schools across the state.

The Middle School Empowerment Collaborative is a partnership between the Mountain State Education Cooperative, Edventure Group and the Southern Regional Education Board. It is a school-wide program that not only focuses on teaching content through strong instructional practices, but it also provides career exploration for students through community-based, student-driven projects.

The program is currently being piloted at Calhoun County Middle/High School and Midland Trail Middle/High School (Fayette County). These schools use a set of nine instructional protocols to direct their planning and, with guidance from the WVDE and its partners, they redesign their learning environments. As a result, students are empowered to experience a range of careers and problem-solving opportunities that strengthen their entrepreneurial mindset and increase their interest and engagement in the learning process.

“We have been committed to increasing student learning at the WVDE, and opening access to CTE at the middle school level is an important part of this mission,” said State Superintendent David L. Roach. “Our state’s CTE program is nationally and internationally recognized for the Simulated Workplace initiative and for producing students with impressive workforce and industry-recognized credentials. So, why would we not want to allow middle school families and students to experience these authentic and highly engaging learning environments?”

Although pilot schools are early in the implementation process, administrators, instructors and students are making strides in identifying the community projects and challenges that will serve as framework for their programs.

“Our students are excited to be the first to build our Empowerment program at Calhoun County Middle,” said Calhoun County Superintendent Kelli Whytsell. “It gives them true ownership of their learning which is something they may not have experienced in the past. Most importantly, they can apply their learning to these projects as they explore and solve real-world scenarios. That is powerful.”

February is CTE Month and a time to recognize the important role CTE plays in preparing students for college and career success. Today’s announcement reinforces the need to offer students access to the instruction, engagement and discipline that these programs provide.

In addition to the Middle School Empowerment Collaborative, the WVDE has also implemented two other middle school CTE programs. The Discover Your Future program is a middle school course designed to introduce students to future career opportunities across 16 career clusters, and Project Lead the Way Gateway allows students to build knowledge and skills in the computer science, engineering and biomedical science pathways.

For media inquiries, contact Christy Day, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications, at 304-558-2699 or

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