New Resource: Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) Resource Guide: A Compendium for High-Quality CTE

May 20th, 2020

Career Technical Education (CTE) provides learners of all ages with the academic and technical skills, knowledge and training necessary to succeed in future careers. At the heart of high-quality CTE programs is the partnership between employers and educators. Effective, two-way partnership between the employers and educators allows for CTE programs to adapt to the current needs of industry and address talent shortages, while also strengthening the quality of those CTE programs.

However, too often there are disconnects between employers and CTE programs, due to lack of coordination, common language and measures of success. To help bridge this gap, Advance CTE partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Education and Workforce to help develop the Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) Resource Guide: A Compendium for High-Quality CTE

The guide is designed to both introduce TPM as well as enhance the existing TPM movement. It is composed of three major resources:

  1. Resource 1: CTE Orientation to the Employer Community
  2. Resource 2: Employer Orientation to the CTE Community
  3. Resource 3: Improving Employer Engagement in CTE through TPM

 

To develop these critical resources, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation convened a review committee of State CTE Directors and TPM practitioners from across the country to ensure the tools can simultaneously work for CTE and industry leaders. The resources can serve as a primer to CTE for employers (and to employers for CTE), as well as offer concrete and actionable steps to take to build strong partnerships across the two communities in support of CTE programs that fully meet the needs of employers and learners alike.

Help us share: 

Tweet: In partnership with @USCCFeducation, @CTEWorks has contributed to the TPM Resource Guide for High-Quality #CTE, offering guidance on how to build stronger partnerships between employers and CTE educators to improve student outcomes.  #TalentPipelineManagement #CTEWorks

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

This Week in CTE

May 15th, 2020

We have compiled a list of highlights in Career Technical Education (CTE) from this week to share with you.

MEMBER OF THE WEEK

This week, Advance CTE welcomes Melissa Hickey as the State CTE Director for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Melissa serves in this role while also leading Reading/Literacy for the state. Top of mind for Melissa is working with business and industry leaders as well as high school and community college leaders to engage in conversations to establish new industry-recognized credentials.

CTE AWARD OF THE WEEK

In Arizona, the J.O. The Unified School District continued the tradition of hosting the annual CTE awards program recognizing students who have completed their CTE program. In addition to the program concentrator awards, a Spirit of CTE Award is presented to a student, advisory board member and community partner for their impact and contribution to the success of the district’s CTE program. View the Spirit of CTE Award winners here. All achievements were announced virtually. 

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Gavin Schmidt, a Custom, Collision and Restoration student from Batavia Career and Technical Education Center in New York practices his skills while social distancing. Gavin has found an innovative way to keep working on his industry skills by turning his home into a body shop. 

GRANT RECIPIENT OF THE WEEK

United Way of North Texas has announced its seventh round of grant recipients. On the list is Per Scholas, which helps the nation meet the demand of skilled workers in the technology sector. With this grant, Per Scholas will be re-skilling and upskilling learners in preparation for their re-entry into the workforce. 

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK

The Fordham Institute provided a new analysis of data comparing workers with bachelor degrees to workers without one. In the end, job skills and on-the-job training is agreed upon as a necessity for upward mobility across industries. 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE OF THE WEEK

Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education has responded to the House’s proposed HEROES Act. View the letter, and all of our responses, on our COVID-19(Coronavirus) state resources page.

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

Navigating CTE During COVID-19: Challenges to Providing Work-Based Learning during COVID-19

May 7th, 2020

One of the most important components of Career Technical Education (CTE) is work-based learning (WBL). For learners, WBL is an opportunity to learn and gain hands-on, in-the-field work experience in their career pathway. WBL exists on a continuum beginning with career awareness and exploration experiences such as field trips, job shadowing, mentorship and industry engagement. At the end of the continuum, learners begin preparing and training for the workforce through experiences such as internships, apprenticeships and co-ops. Along the way, learners build relationships and develop technical and professional skills necessary to transition into the world of work after they complete their CTE program. 

This spring and summer, however, WBL has ground to a halt for most CTE learners. COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has forced many American businesses to close their doors and, as a result, cancel or indefinitely postpone any WBL programs. Among the challenges facing State CTE Directors, policymakers and on-the-ground practitioners are: 

  1. Industry partners disengaging as they shift focus to cutting costs and long-term planning for a likely recession. 
  2. State and local government suspension of WBL programs. 
  3. Ensuring that any solution to virtual or distance WBL does not exacerbate inequities. 
  4. Knowing where to start. This is virtually unknown territory and many states and local leaders and businesses simply have no idea how to begin delivering WBL virtually or remotely. 

 

Some states and local school districts have been able to provide career awareness and exploration experiences for learners through video platforms. In South Carolina, WBL coordinators are creating virtual tour videos for learners to finish their WBL hours. Learners in Texas; the Kansas City region; Orange County, California and the District of Columbia are encouraging industry engagement by partnering with for-profit companies such as Nepris, a site that connects learners to industry professionals through live industry chats and virtual job tours. The platform, which usually requires a paid membership, is free to all users for a limited time because of the Coronavirus. Other platforms include ConnectED’s “A Day In the Life” YouTube channel. Completely free, learners can gain insight into career opportunities across a variety of industry sectors. Learners can hear from professionals and learn what their daily work entails, how they do their work, and the path they took to accomplish their career goals.  

While career awareness and exploration activities are easier to continue for learners with access to technology, career preparation and training still remains a challenge. Some private technology companies have converted their internship programs into virtual and remote experiences. Tech giant Hewlett-Packard plans to continue its summer internship program virtually for high school and college students in the Sacramento, California region. The company plans to send interns equipment so that they can connect online. However, the option to work virtually is harder to scale to other industry sectors. 

The lack of WBL opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic has significant implications for equity. Many of the go-to alternatives for remote WBL require access to video conferencing software, home computers or mobile devices and reliable internet access. The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, and exacerbated, the digital divide that disadvantages rural and economically disadvantaged learners. 

Additionally, Black, Latinx and economically disadvantaged learners often have less access to the social capital (professional networks) that White and professional-class learners have. WBL exposes learners to careers and professionals who they otherwise may not have the opportunity to engage with. Research has shown these engagements have the potential to close racial and economic equity gaps and increase the likelihood that economically disadvantaged learners exposed to WBL will work in high-quality, high-paying jobs as adults. By limiting access to meaningful WBL, the Coronavirus could take away a critical opportunity for learners to get a leg up on their careers. 

WBL is a vitally important component of a learner’s education and career trajectory. The Coronavirus presents significant access challenges, but also creates an opportunity for creativity and innovation. In the weeks and months ahead, it will be vitally important for local and state CTE systems and the private and public sector to work collaboratively and push the creative boundaries on what an engaging and formative WBL experience can look like for learners and industry alike. 

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

Navigating CTE during COVID-19: Best Practices for Distance Learning

April 27th, 2020

As education moves online in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are looking for ways to continue supporting learners virtually and offer high-quality educational opportunities. This edition of the CTE Research Review will synthesize some of the research on best practices for delivering distance learning. While these examples predate the pandemic, they can be a guide to CTE programs looking to implement or scale distance learning in response to the Coronavirus. 

A 2010 U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies from 1996-2008 found that distance learning is at least as effective as traditional classroom instruction and most successful for undergraduate and adult learners. Despite being a little dated, the findings from the studies examined likely hold true today. Some best practices identified for distance learning included giving learners an element of control over their learning (such as offering multiple options of learning tools), providing online simulations and building opportunities for individualized instruction and learner reflection.

In 2015, Hanover Research released a report outlining best practices in the development and implementation of high-quality distance learning. Some of the key findings included giving learners the opportunity to collaborate with each other as a means to further learner engagement and ensuring the course platform is easy to use with necessary information such as syllabi, schedules, readings and videos. Additionally, the authors examined the literature of best practices for online instruction specifically at the postsecondary level and cited Penn State’s World Campus’ recommended principles of effective online instruction. The original recommendations in detail are linked here and explain how to effectively engage in online instructing for the following teaching principles: actively engage in online instruction; practice proactive course management strategies; establish patterns of course activities; prepare for potential course interruptions; respond to student inquiries in a timely manner; establish a timely process for returning assignment grades; use the Learning Management System for communication and ensure course quality.  

A 2018 edition of Library Technology Reports focuses on the accessibility of distance learning programs for students with disabilities. Using the University of South Carolina’s Center for Teaching Excellence as a case study, the article identified best practices in online learning and accessibility for students with disabilities. Their recommendations are as follows:

  • “Provide step-by-step instructions for accessing the course and all course materials;
  • Offer multiple formats of materials, including Word and PDF documents;
  • Provide transcripts and closed captioning for all lectures, talks and synchronous or asynchronous interactions with students;
  • Use Sans Serif fonts to increase visibility and accessibility;
  • Use bold to display emphasis rather than color (for students with color blindness); and
  • Maintain ongoing one-on-one and group communication with students and offer accessible opportunities for interaction.”

In addition to these best practices, Advance CTE has compiled resources for distance learning. As the educational environment remains online to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus, these research-based best practices and resources can help guide CTE programs as they continue to provide high-quality learning opportunities. In future blogs we will highlight best practices related to delivering work-based learning and CTE-specific coursework online. 

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

Learning from CTE Research Partnerships: Using Data to Address Access and Equity Barriers in Massachusetts

March 17th, 2020

As part of our ongoing blog series aimed at increasing state research on Career Technical Education (CTE), Corinne Alfeld, Research Analyst at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research at Advance CTE, are conducting interviews with individuals who are part of successful CTE State Director research partnerships. The third interview was with Cliff Chuang at the Massachusetts Department of Education and Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University. [Note: this interview, from February 5, 2020, has been edited for length and clarity].

Could you start by talking about the projects that you’ve worked on, your research questions, and how you settled on those research questions?

Shaun – It grew out of my dissertation work that was using some of the school data and then some of the statewide data from Massachusetts. It started pretty narrowly but the director of research was happy enough with what I was able to do that she talked about whether we could address some additional questions, and more data was becoming available. That more or less triggered the expansion, and then with Cliff coming into the role it became a two-way conversation that was more explicitly about what’s of academic interest and what’s of interest or of need on the practice and policy side for CVTE [career/vocational technical education].

Cliff – I would say that the particular catalyst for our most recent partnership is our desire as an agency to understand the waitlist demand issues related to chapter 74 CVTE in Massachusetts. If I recall correctly, we put out an RFR (request for responses)* for a research partner to help us analyze different aspects of who is and is not getting access to CVTE programs in Massachusetts. And Shaun and his partner Isabel at Harvard, a grad student there, their bid was selected. From that project there have been a lot of offshoots through the CTEx exchange collaboration that Shaun and others have established. We’ve been engaged in a lot of informal research inquiry as well as additional formal research that uses that data.

Could you talk a little bit about what the findings were from that project and what have been implications in the academic space but also on the policy front, how are you using those findings to change policy in Massachusetts?

Shaun – The basic findings were that in fact there is much more interest in these high-quality CTE programs, these chapter 74-approved programs in these standalone technical high schools, than can be met by current supply. This was more confirmatory evidence with a little more granularity and maybe confidence in the figures than was possible previously.

Cliff – Shaun’s team also helped us look at just the straight enrollment data comparisons, which is still not as ideal as looking at applicant data. It was helpful to have a more rigorous definition of what data protocols are needed around application and admissions. We have now made the decision to collect waitlist data systematically at the state level to allow researchers like Shaun to more rigorously analyze across the board the attributes of who’s interested in voc tech, who’s getting in, who’s applying, etc.

I think it also stimulated a variety of program initiatives on the part of state government in Massachusetts to increase access to CVTE programs through collaborative partnerships like After Dark, which is an initiative that seeks to utilize shop space in our technical schools after the regular school day paired with academics provided by a partner academic school to get more kids the technical training that we are unable to do in the standard day program structures.

I would also add that Shaun is continuing other aspects of the research now that we’re very excited about, based in part on some of the research they did do to look at longer term trends of students and their outcomes post high school.

Shaun – The first order concern is that lots of people want [access to CVTE programs] and there’s a limited amount of it, so should we have more?

The second order concern – but certainly not secondary question – is one about equity and whether or not the students who were applying and the students who were getting access look like a representative cross-section of the community at large.  We know that students who choose CTE or select a lot of it are maybe different than those who don’t, but we don’t know a ton about whether and how we expect students who are making those investments to look like the overall population or whether or not access concerns lead to equity concerns.

Cliff – We would like to look more closely at whether the gaps are simply due to application gaps – which is still an issue in terms of kids not applying – or whether there are actual gaps related to who is applying and getting in. That was the data gap that we haven’t quite been able to close yet. But Shaun was able to create some comparative data that is just based on enrollment that has allowed us to engage in these conversations. We’re having the conversation about trying to expand the number of seats available so there’s less of a waitlist, but also to ensure that access into the existing seats is equitable and doesn’t disadvantage certain subgroups over others.

Over the course of the partnership, what have been some of the major challenges and hurdles that you’ve faced? What are some of the speedbumps that you’ve hit getting things formalized up at the front?

Shaun – Fortunately, one thing that we didn’t face, although I know it’s an obstacle in many places, is processes related to how one gets permissions and access to the data. In fact, as the process has evolved, having those structures in place has made it really easy, so that if Cliff and I say “hey, we’d like to add this,” it’s a pretty easy amendment of the MOU [memorandum of understanding]. And then the people who deliver the data get approval and then they deliver it through a secure portal.

Cliff – I would also say that researchers left on their own probably would have had much less success in getting district participation in the survey study we did together. I, on the other hand, am someone with positional authority at the state level and established relationships that I can leverage to get that participation. And then I can pass it off to the research team that actually has the expertise and bandwidth to execute on the very labor-intensive data collection, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

It seems like you have a good partnership and a good synergy between the state office and the research team. If you were talking to CTE leaders and other researchers, what are some strategies and practices to make sure that partnership runs effectively and can be as impactful as possible?

Cliff – I think it’s important to have someone in the role of a researcher director type person whose job it is to facilitate these partnerships and to do some of the nitty gritty around data sharing, MOUs, etc. The other thing I would say is to have a commitment to an evidence base in terms of policymaking, and have people in the programmatic leadership who see the value of that and have enough knowledge of how research functions to parlay whatever policy or relational capital they have to support the research agenda.

Shaun – I think sometimes overcoming the incentives related to purely academic publishing restricts some of the willingness of some academic researchers to invest or to think about important questions in practice and policy. It’s being willing to realize that strong partnerships with local and state agencies means that more and better work can be done, and the work can have impact in real time. There is something very fulfilling and useful and practical about taking that approach from a research standpoint and then, if you come from practice like I did, then it helps ground the work.

Other blog posts in this series can be viewed here.

 

*Cliff explained that this is a formal process by which they solicited proposals for pay. “What’s been nice is that because it’s a partnership, Shaun has secured funding from other sources so there’s not an explicit contractual arrangement always. Aspects of the research that are ongoing are follow-ons from the original study. We have an interest in continuing to mine the data long-term to inform practice and policy.”

New Survey Highlights a Persistent Skills Gap; What Can States Do to Strengthen the Talent Pool?

February 18th, 2020

As the economy continues to change with digitalization and automation, the needs of the labor market will continue to change too. In 2019 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation commissioned a study surveying 500 human resource (HR) professionals with hiring decision authority in their organizations. An overwhelming 74 percent of respondents said that a “skills gap” persists in the current U.S. labor and hiring economy. 

These employers cite three major challenges they face when hiring: candidates lacking the appropriate or necessary skills, candidates lacking previous relevant work experience and not having enough applicants. According to these HR professionals, addressing the skills gap and truly transforming the talent marketplace would require:

1)      Greater upskilling initiatives within companies for existing employees.

2)      More educational/Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to build talent pipelines.

3)      Improving alignment between skills and competencies taught in educational/CTE programs and in-demand skills and competencies needed in the workforce.

A study by JFF further highlights the skills gap and the challenges to solving the problem. The report, Making College Work for Students and the Economy, follows JFF’s comprehensive policy agenda for addressing states’ skilled workforce and talent development needs.  The report examines a representative sample of 15 states to determine their progress toward adopting 15 policy recommendations. Of the recommendations made in their initial report, states have made the most progress on the following:

1)      Establishing expectations that community college programs align to labor market demand.

2)      Developing longitudinal data systems that provide the ability to track over time the educational and employment outcomes of students.

3)      Addressing barriers to college readiness.

Conversely, JFF finds that states have the most work to do in the following areas:

1)      Providing community colleges with sufficient resources and appropriate incentives.

2)      Addressing the holistic needs of students to strengthen their financial stability.

3)      Digging into labor market outcomes of students and postsecondary programs.

Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the JFF studies highlight a need for state governments, the education sector and the labor sector to work collaboratively and do more to prepare the 21st century workforce to meet the needs of an ever-changing labor market. 

With implementation of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) underway, states are poised to make transformational changes to improve the quality of CTE programs and ensure equitable access and success. Opportunities like the comprehensive local needs assessment and the Perkins V reserve fund give state leaders leverage to ensure programs are meeting the needs of learners and employers.

Research Roundup

  • The University of Michigan Youth Policy Lab released a report last month finding disparities in access to CTE programs for economically disadvantaged learners and learners of color throughout the state. However, the report found that when CTE is offered in a single high school, there is very little disparity. This suggests that there is broad interest in CTE programs when offered and that states should do more to expand access for low-income and Black and Hispanic learners.
  • A report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that students enrolled in certificate and associate degree programs make up 50 percent of the postsecondary student population. Students graduating with certificates in fields such as engineering and drafting can earn a median income up to $150,000. Black, Hispanic and low-income students were most likely to enroll in a certificate program. These findings suggest that certificate and associate degree programs can have great potential in closing earnings and opportunity gaps.

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

The Global Imperative for CTE Programs at Community and Technical Colleges

January 13th, 2020

Learners today are no longer preparing solely for careers in their communities, states or even country, but rather within the global economy. At the same time, when individuals enter the workforce, they increasingly are called upon to engage with a diverse set of colleagues, work with international supply chains, hold multiple perspectives and develop products and services for a more diverse and culturally conscious group of consumers.

Within this context, it is clear there is a greater need to ensure all learners are entering the workforce global competent and prepared for the ever-changing world. Yet global competency is not often an explicit focus of Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.

To elevate this critical issue, Advance CTE partnered with Asia Society, Longview Foundation, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Career & Technical Education (ACTE) on Preparing Tomorrow’s Workforce: The Global Learning Imperative for Career and Technical Education Programs at Community and Technical Colleges. This paper builds on the foundation from a paper released in 2015, which focused on how global competency can and should be integrated into secondary CTE programs of study, and explores the role postsecondary institutions can play in advancing global competency.

This paper provides data and evidence on why and how community and technical colleges can lean in on “internationalizing” their programs and embed global competency in curriculum and instruction, along with specific examples from leading institutions like Ivy Technical Community College of Indiana, Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   The examples in this paper aim to support community and technical colleges and their faculty as they work to integrate global competence into existing CTE courses and advance their missions of graduating career-ready learners.

In the coming months, Asia Society will work to create new tools and resources to assist postsecondary CTE faculty in integrating global issues and perspectives into their courses. If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact Heather Singmaster, Director of CTE, Center for Global Education, Asia Society: hsingmaster@asiasociety.org. To view current tools and resources for middle and high school educators, click here.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

What Do State CTE Directors Want to Learn from the Research Community?

December 2nd, 2019

Career Technical Education (CTE) is gaining widespread interest and support from state policymakers, who see it as a strategy to expand access to opportunity and meet employer needs. Between 2014 and 2018, states enacted roughly 800 policies related to CTE, and in 2019, workforce development was one of the top education-related priorities mentioned by governors in their state-of-the-state addresses.

What’s more, in 2018 Congress passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), which reauthorized the federal law for CTE and invests around $1.2 billion a year to strengthen and expand CTE programs. The law was enacted in July 2019 and will be in full effect in July 2020 after states submit their four-year plans for CTE to the U.S. Department of Education (see more about the Perkins V planning process here).

With CTE in the spotlight, State CTE Directors are working hard to improve quality and equity in CTE. But state CTE offices often do not have the staffing or resources to conduct rigorous program evaluations to learn what’s working and what needs improvement. By partnering with CTE researchers, State Directors can gain critical insights into the impact of CTE programs, policies and practices.

While the design, governance and delivery of CTE varies from state to state, there are several common questions and challenges across the country that CTE researchers can help address, particularly in light of Perkins V implementation:

Improving program quality: State leaders are working to improve CTE program quality by connecting secondary and postsecondary coursework, integrating academic and technical learning, aligning programs with labor market needs and expectations, and preparing learners to earn industry-recognized credentials of value. Tennessee, for example, recently revised its secondary CTE program standards and developed model CTE programs of study that meet statewide workforce needs. Answers to the following research questions would help fuel these efforts:

  • What set of experiences at the secondary and postsecondary levels (CTE coursework, work-based learning, dual enrollment, etc.) best prepares learners for postsecondary enrollment and completion, certificate and degree attainment, and high-wage employment?
  • Do these vary by region of the country, Career Cluster® or program of study?
  • Does the delivery mechanism (comprehensive high schools, career academies, area technical centers, technical colleges) matter?

Ensuring equitable access and success in CTE: To reverse historical inequities in CTE, state leaders are using data to identify disparities and ensure each learner can access, fully participate in and successfully complete a high-quality CTE program of study. In Rhode Island, the Department of Education repurposed $1.2 million in state funds to launch an Innovation & Equity grant initiative, which provided resources to local recipients to recruit and support underrepresented student populations in high-quality programs. CTE researchers can help these efforts by addressing the following questions:

  • What are the classroom and workplace conditions in which CTE students of color are most likely to develop the interests, knowledge, and skills that prepare them to earn postsecondary credentials of value and obtain high-wage employment in their careers of choice?
  • What interventions, accommodations, and instructional strategies best prepare learners with disabilities to transition successfully into the workforce?
  • How does gender inform the development of occupational identity, and what can educators do to limit the effects of stereotyping on the career aspirations of learners?

Improving the quality and use of CTE data: Most State Directors believe improving and enhancing their CTE data systems is a priority, but only 45 percent say they have the information they need at both the secondary and postsecondary levels to improve program quality. States like Minnesota (through the State Colleges and University System) are working to improve the validity and reliability of their data by collaborating with industry-recognized credential providers to obtain data for their students. CTE researchers can help state leaders improve data quality in two ways:

  • Identifying relevant data sources and matching student records to allow for a comprehensive examination of student pathways and outcomes
  • Developing and sharing guidance for collecting, validating, and matching student data relevant to CTE

Fostering collaboration and alignment across state agencies: Supporting learner success requires cross-agency collaboration and coordination. State leaders are working to create seamless pathways by sharing data, coordinating program design, and braiding resources to achieve economies of scale. One example is Massachusetts, where Governor Charlie Baker established a cross-agency workforce skills cabinet to coordinate education, workforce, housing, and economic development. The following research questions would help accelerate the work in Massachusetts and other states:

  • Do states with policies that foster cross-agency coordination see better education and employment outcomes for students? Can merging datasets across agencies help states better understand and respond to student needs?
  • Does credit for prior learning and/or credit transfer between institutions decrease time to credential attainment and entry into employment?
  • How does the integration of support services—such as financial aid, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and other state and federal programs—impact the likelihood of student success?

Expanding career advisement opportunities: School counselors are the most trusted source of information on CTE and career options, and states are working to bolster their career advisement systems by reducing the counselor-to-student ratio, requiring each student to complete an individualized graduation plan, and developing user-friendly platforms for career exploration. In Oklahoma, for example, it is now policy for all students to identify their career and academic goals through the state’s new Individual Career and Academic Planning program. CTE researchers can help address the following questions:

  • Do career and academic planning programs increase the likelihood that learners will complete CTE programs of study, graduate from high school and earn postsecondary credentials?
  • How does early career exposure through job shadowing, career fairs and career counseling inform student course taking, academic achievement, and future employment and earnings?

As states chart a vision and path for the future of CTE, they can and should use their data to inform decisions. Researchers can help them collect and analyze high quality data to understand the relationships between CTE program elements and various learner outcomes. This can help them understand what is and isn’t working with current policy and practice and identify how to focus their efforts to improve quality and equity in CTE. In addition, researchers can help state directors plan and conduct rigorous evaluations as they roll out new CTE policies and programs. Over the next few months, Advance CTE and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will feature a series of successful partnerships between states and CTE researchers and explore how those projects provided critical data and insights to inform state policy.

This blog series was co-authored by Corinne Alfeld at IES (corinne.alfeld@ed.gov) and Austin Estes from Advance CTE (aestes@careertech.org). IES began funding research grants in CTE in 2017 and established a CTE Research Network in 2018. IES hopes to encourage more research on CTE in the coming years in order to increase the evidence base and guide program and policy decisions. At the same time, Advance CTE has been providing resources to help states improve their CTE data quality and use data more effectively to improve CTE program quality and equity.

Partnering with Researchers Can Help State Leaders Build the Case for CTE

November 12th, 2019

In Massachusetts, Career/Vocational Technical Education Schools (CVTE) are renowned for offering rigorous, high-quality programs of study across a variety of disciplines. While CVTE graduates have always experienced high rates of success academically and in their careers, state leaders in Massachusetts wanted to know whether these outcomes directly result from the CVTE model. In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education partnered with Shaun Dougherty (at the time, a researcher at the University of Connecticut), and learned that CVTE students are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and earn an industry-recognized credential than similar students who were not admitted.

Demand for rigorous research on Career Technical Education (CTE) has increased as more policymakers ask questions about the impact on college and career readiness. State CTE Directors may be interested in similar questions as researchers (such as “Does CTE improve educational and career outcomes? Do different programs help different students? What types of programs offer students the highest economic returns?”) but may not think to seek out and collaborate with them or know how to prioritize among the many research requests they receive.

This blog series, a partnership between Advance CTE and the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) seeks to break down the barriers between State CTE Directors and researchers to encourage partnerships that can benefit both.

What Can Research with State Data Tell Us?

Research can be a powerful tool to help State CTE Directors understand what’s working, what isn’t working, and what needs to change. The findings described below provide examples of how strong partnerships between researchers and state policymakers can result in actionable research.

  • In Arkansas, students with greater exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages. The study, which was rigorous but not causal, also found that students taking more CTE classes are just as likely to pursue a four-year degree as their peers, and that CTE provides the greatest boost to boys and students from low-income families.
  • Boys who attended CTE high schools in Connecticut experienced higher graduation rates and post-graduation earnings than similar students who did not attend CTE high schools. Further follow-ups using both postsecondary and labor data could provide information about college completion and employment and earnings for different occupational sectors.
  • CTE concentrators in Texas had greater enrollment and persistence in college than their peers. Although rates of CTE concentration decreased, student participation in at least some CTE programming, as well as number of CTE credits earned, increased between the 2008 and 2014 cohorts. Unsurprisingly, the study also found differences by CTE programs of study. Education & Training; Finance; Health Science; and Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) were most strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment, particularly in baccalaureate programs.

How Can States Use CTE Research to Improve Policy and Practice?

Here are a few things states can do today to start building a CTE research base:

  • Create a codebook of CTE variables in your state’s data system: Include K-12, postsecondary, and labor force variables if you have them. Define the variables clearly – what do they measure, at what level (student, program, district), and for how many years did you collect these variables? Are the measures comparable across years and across datasets?
  • Maximize opportunities to collect longitudinal data: longitudinal databases that span education levels and connect to workforce outcomes permit researchers to conduct rigorous studies on long-term outcomes.
  • Identify universities in your state with strong education, economics or public policy departments: Make a list of questions that policymakers in your state most wanted answered, and then approach universities with these proactively. Reach out to the chair(s) of these departments to connect with faculty who may be interested in partnering on answering the questions. Universities can often apply for a research grant that will cover part or all of the funding for state personnel to work on the research project. IES, which provides funding of this nature, opens its next grant competition in summer 2020.
  • Reach out to your Regional Educational Lab (REL) or the REL Career Readiness Research Alliance to inquire about partnering on CTE research: The mission of these IES-funded labs is to provide research and evidence to help educators in the states in their region. For example, REL Central is currently working with four states to replicate the Arkansas study described above (see “Review of Career and Technical Education in Four States”).
  • Stay up to date on the latest research findings in CTE: New research is regularly posted on the CTE Research Network and other websites. This can help you get ideas for what types of research you would like to conduct in your state. Another good source of inspiration is the recommendations of the CTE technical workgroup, which was convened by IES in late 2017 to guide future CTE research directions.
  • Become familiar with how researchers approach CTE research: Learn about why it’s so challenging to understand its impact. The CTE Research Network will hold research trainings for different audiences—including state agency staff— beginning in the summer of 2020. Stay tuned!

Over the next several months, Advance CTE and IES will publish a series of Q&A blog posts with researchers and state CTE leaders talking about how their partnerships developed and what states can do to advance CTE research.

This blog series was co-authored by Corinne Alfeld at IES (corinne.alfeld@ed.gov) and Austin Estes from Advance CTE (aestes@careertech.org), with thanks to Steve Klein of Education Northwest for editorial suggestions. IES began funding research grants in CTE in 2017 and established a CTE Research Network in 2018. IES hopes to encourage more research on CTE in the coming years in order to increase the evidence base and guide program and policy decisions. At the same time, Advance CTE has been providing resources to help states improve their CTE data quality and use data more effectively to improve CTE program quality and equity.

Equity in CTE Is Not Just About Access; States Have A Responsibility to Ensure Learner Success, Too 

October 24th, 2019

Making Good on the Promise: Ensuring Equitable Success Through CTEFinancial expenses, work commitments, developmental education and healthcare needs are some of the most common barriers to success for community college students, according to a survey by RISC. To minimize these barriers and bolster postsecondary credential attainment rates, Southwestern Community College (SCC) in Sylva, North Carolina has awarded 129 mini grants to help students address needs such as housing, transportation and educational expenses. 

The grants were issued as part of North Carolina’s Finish Line Grants program, which was started in 2018 using governor’s discretionary funds through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The program is administered by local workforce development boards in partnership with nearby community colleges and provides up to $1,000 per semester per student to address unexpected financial emergencies. 

The Finish Line Grant program, while relatively new, demonstrates the role states can play in removing barriers to success and supporting each learner — at the secondary, postsecondary or adult level — to achieve a credential of value and access an in-demand occupation with family sustaining wages. 

Advance CTE’s latest report, the fifth and final installment in the Making Good on the Promise series, explores other approaches states can take to ensure learner success through Career Technical Education (CTE), including: 

  • Using data-driven support systems to meet learners’ needs: To increase postsecondary credential attainment, some school districts and institutions of higher education have started deploying their data to drive a comprehensive, student-centered support system. Using a method known as predictive analytics, institutions analyze past data on the performance and behaviors of their student body to identify patterns that are correlated with success. They then use this information to identify key indicators — such as absenteeism or low grades in core academic courses — and provide proactive supports to ensure learners can make progress towards graduation or a postsecondary credential.
  • Providing integrated support services to secure wellness, academic preparation and financial stability: Like North Carolina, states can support equitable success in CTE by minimizing common barriers — such as health, academic and financial barriers — that learners encounter along their pathways. Expanding and fully funding integrated support services at both the secondary and postsecondary level can help reduce the burden on learners and ensure they can access the help they need to be successful.
  • Creating the enabling conditions for successful transitions: While completing a program or earning a sought-after credential or degree is important and should be the objective of any pathway, the ultimate measure of success is whether learners transition successfully into the next step of their career pathway, be it postsecondary education, an apprenticeship, employment or other opportunity of choice. States can support successful transitions to postsecondary education by ensuring early postsecondary opportunities such as dual or concurrent enrollment are accessible and equitable. They can also support transitions to the workforce by helping learners develop their occupational identity and expand their social networks through early career exposure and meaningful work-based learning connected to their career pathways. 

Throughout the Making Good on the Promise series, Advance CTE has explored state strategies to identify equity gaps, rebuild trust among historically marginalized populations, and expand access to high-quality CTE opportunities. 

But the work does not stop there. State leaders have a responsibility to ensure each learner is not only able to access CTE, but also feel welcome, fully participate in and successfully complete their career pathway. This means constantly monitoring learner progress and creating the conditions that are conducive for learner success. Making Good on the Promise: Ensuring Equitable Success through CTE aims to provide a roadmap for states to learn from promising practices and develop their own plans for achieving equity. 

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

 

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