Navigating CTE During COVID-19: Equity Considerations for Re-entry

For most learners, the academic year has ended. States are now in the process of planning for learners to re-enter school and college and how to best support learners who may not have had access to the resources and supports they needed to succeed during periods of remote learning. As state Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders prepare for re-entry, there are key considerations they should take into account to promote equity and access in CTE.

Leverage Early Warning Systems to Address Equity Gaps

As learners return to their institutions of study, it will be important to identify supports that learners who experienced disrupted learning may need to succeed in CTE opportunities. An early warning system is one tool that can be leveraged to help with this. Specifically, state and district leaders can adapt and expand predictive indicators of early warning systems to identify which students may need additional supports. Early warning systems often examine attendance, behavior and course performance to identify “at-risk” learners. These indicators can be modified to reflect the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on learners’ ability to succeed in education and workforce programs. For instance, since the pandemic shifted the organization of learning experience to an individual/family effort, students’ participation in learning activities may be the most important “attendance” metric during the pandemic. Early warning systems provide a critical signal; however, states and districts’ responses to the early warning system indicators will need to be routinely analyzed and adjusted to ensure that the proper supports are provided to learners.

Provide Professional Development to Instructors and Staff

State agency staff and instructors are facing unprecedented circumstances. Educators were thrust into an environment that required them to use unfamiliar technology, reimagine their lesson plans and do full-scale distance learning instantly. Similarly, state agency staff had to develop creative solutions to support high-quality CTE programs during the pandemic. As institutions prepare for re-entry, it will be critical to provide professional development to instructors and staff to equip them with the skills and knowledge to close existing and new equity gaps that emerged because of the pandemic. Instructors and staff will need professional development on how to leverage tools, such as early warning systems, to identify and address equity gaps in virtual, blended and in-person environments. 

Apply an Asset Mindset to Planning

Core to advancing equity in CTE is constructing systems that support each learner. This means taking a learner-centered approach to developing systems and not placing the onus on learners to close equity gaps. More than a fifth of secondary learners did not participate in school during coronavirus closures, with larger truancy rates in high-poverty communities. The “COVID-slide” coupled with “summer melt” has the potential to place students at a learning “deficit” at the start of the new academic year; however, it’s critical that states take an asset mindset when planning how to support learners. An asset mindset focuses on the strengths and potential of a learner, rather than a learner’s “deficits.” While it’s important to acknowledge performance gaps, it’s essential that state and district leaders focus on the strengths of learners as well. State and local leaders at the secondary and postsecondary levels can work with learners and community organizations that represent the interests of different populations to identify the strengths and assets of learners to help them succeed during these unprecedented times. 

This is the third blog in a series of blogs that will map out how state leaders can continue to advance equity, quality and access during the coronavirus pandemic. Read the first and second blogs in the series here and here. To learn more about Advance CTE’s commitment to advancing equity in CTE, click here. To access resources related to equity and the coronavirus, click here.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

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