Posts Tagged ‘Access and Equity’

State Reentry Plans Prioritize Equity

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Many states are in the process of planning for learners to physically reenter school and college in the fall. However, the possibility of a “second peak” or “second wave” of COVID-19 (coronavirus) means that states are also preparing to provide high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) to learners at a distance. States are preparing for an “accordion effect,” in which learners may spend some time in the classroom and some time engaging in distance learning. To help institutions prepare for different scenarios, state agencies have released guidance and plans for reentry. Specifically, many of the reentry plans call attention to the importance of advancing equity during the pandemic and ensuring that each learner has access to the supports needed to succeed.

In June, Arizona released a “Roadmap for Reopening Schools” that provides strategies and considerations for local education agencies as they prepare for reentry and periods of campus closures. Core to the guide is taking a learner centered approach through leveraging strategies related to leadership and instruction, such as strategies related to trauma-sensitive teaching and social emotional learning. The state recognizes that supporting learners during this time requires a community effort. To that end, the roadmap includes critical questions for institutions to consider as they build out their plans, such as “what partnerships are necessary to implement the plan (i.e., Tribal Nations, youth and community organizations, etc.)?” and “what can we do now to reduce the disparities in access to learning that will exist for vulnerable student populations if schools are forced to close?”  

Similarly, Kentucky released considerations for reopening schools. The resource includes key questions institutions should consider as they develop their plans, such as “how will schools and districts ensure students participate in and fulfill work-based learning placements?” and “how will schools and districts ensure the equity of instruction for students who are still choosing to learn from home or must remain at home due to safety restrictions?” State CTE leaders can leverage the key questions that are featured in states’ reentry plans to help inform what it means to provide high-quality work-based learning opportunities, access to industry-recognized credentials and access to other CTE opportunities during periods of remote learning.

In addition to questions for consideration, state reentry plans include strategies to advance equity during the pandemic. Virginia released “Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020,” which emphasizes the state’s commitment to ensuring equity and includes considerations, key steps and strategies to advance equity during coronavirus. Some key strategies include establishing processes and accountability levers to ensure that the implementation of reentry plans do not lead to disparate impacts and consequences and investing in equity. Specifically, the guide encourages institutions to prioritize funds, such as federal stimulus funding, to meet the needs of Enlgish language learners, students with disabilities, undocumented students and students living in proverty.

This is the first blog in a series that will examine state guidance and plans for reentry. 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

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
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Navigating CTE During COVID-19: Equity Considerations for Re-entry

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

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

By Brianna McCain in COVID-19 and CTE, Uncategorized
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Expanding Access and Equity to Career Technical Education for Youth and Young Adults in the Justice System

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Ensuring that young people have access to high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs is vital to preparing them for future employment. Yet, youth and young adults in the justice system historically have been left behind in states’ and localities’ efforts to improve workforce development and employment outcomes. More than 30,000 youth are incarcerated in the United States each year in the juvenile justice system, and more than 325,000 youth are placed on some form of juvenile probation. Increasingly, youth in the juvenile justice system are older and are seeking to enter the workforce and transition to independence. 

In an economy that is now being reshaped by COVID-19 (Coronavirus), it is more critical than ever that young people in the justice system are fully equipped to succeed in the rapidly changing labor market and meet workforce needs. Advance CTE’s latest resource, developed in collaboration with the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, outlines five key actions that state CTE leaders can take in partnership with juvenile and adult criminal justice agencies and other entities to ensure that youth and young adults in these systems have access to high-quality CTE programs and the opportunity to secure and maintain viable employment. Specifically, Making Good on the Promise: Improving Equity and Access to High-Quality Career Technical Education for Youth and Young Adults in the Justice System examines how state CTE leaders can:

This resource is part of the Making Good on the Promise series, which confronts the negative aspects of CTE’s legacy and defines the key challenges learners face today. The series provides promising solutions to help state leaders close equity gaps in CTE to ensure that each learner is able to attain the promise of CTE — a high-skill, high-wage, in-demand career. 

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

By Brianna McCain in Publications
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Getting to Know….Alaska

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Note: This is part of Advance CTE’s blog series, “Getting to Know…” We are using this series to help our readers learn more about specific states, State CTE Directors, partners and more. 

State Name: Alaska

State CTE Director: Deborah Riddle

Before becoming the State CTE Director for Alaska, Deborah Riddle was a teacher. She taught math, Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) and robotics in rural Montana. During her time as a teacher, she worked closely with high school teachers to create alignment between middle school and high school. After receiving an administrative certificate to become a principal, she decided to move back home to Alaska. Deborah became a School Improvement Title I Specialist before beginning her work in Career Technical Education (CTE).

About Alaska:

At the state level, CTE in Alaska is supported by a small but mighty team of five. The work of the state CTE office in Alaska is guided by the state’s commitment to address the education challenges in the state. A few years ago, the State Department of Education brought together a group of over 100 stakeholders, including legislators, educators and business and industry, to examine the educational challenges the state faces. From that gathering, Alaska’s Education Challenge was born. The initiative focuses on three commitments related to enabling student success, promoting the safety and wellbeing of students, and cultivating responsible and reflective learning.

Core to Alaska’s work is promoting access and equity for each learner. Alaska has a robust Native and rural population that can face unique challenges when trying to access high-quality CTE programs. Alaska has leveraged approaches such as virtual learning to meet the needs of learners. Additionally, Alaska has taken a culturally responsive approach to addressing equity and access issues for Native populations.

In the past, Native learners were removed from their communities and sent to boarding schools that failed to serve them equitably. This was done in part because of the lack of opportunities available in Native learners’ communities. Recognizing the importance of allowing Native learners the option to continue to reside in their communities for the majority of their time, Alaska created short-term residencies. During the short-term residencies, Native learners are able to travel to urban areas for short periods of time to participate in programs that require equipment not available in their communities and that allows them to earn credit or certifications. The short-term residencies allow learners to interact with business and industry and gain critical workplace skills.

Looking forward, Alaska plans to continue to focus on advancing equity and access in CTE and ensuring that each learner is on a path to obtain a high-skill, high-wage, in-demand career.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
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Navigating CTE during COVID-19: States Must Maintain Quality In the Face of Flexibility

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

 

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances for all learners, as outlined in the first blog in this series. A key tenet of equity is flexibility, meeting each learner where they are at and providing the supports needed to help that learner be successful. However, this flexibility must always be offered with a persistent commitment to access and quality. During the crisis facing our nation, understandably, the response to these challenges of massive school and college closures and rapid scaling of distance learning has been to provide significant flexibility to states and educational institutions. For example, many postsecondary institutions have made classes pass/fail, the U.S. Department of Education is granting waivers to states who are unable to assess students during the pandemic, some states are waiving graduation requirements, and some states have taken action to waive licensure requirements

When leveraging the flexibility provided, states must ensure that the actions they are taking do not disproportionately negatively affect historically marginalized populations or lead to widening or new equity gaps. Quality should not be sacrificed in the name of flexibility. 

Equality vs. Equity. Retrieved from Shorter-Gooden Consulting (n.d.). https://www.shorter-goodenconsulting.com

The decisions that state leaders make today can have significant long-term consequences. For instance, some postsecondary institutions have made classes mandatory pass/fail to address equity concerns. Institutions recognize that students’ current environments may not be conducive to learning and therefore the letter or numerical grades they receive may not be a true reflection of their abilities or their peers whose lives have not been as disrupted by the pandemic may have an unfair advantage. However, making classes pass/fail can have long-term consequences for grade point average calculation for scholarships and the transferability of credits. There must be intentional alignment across systems and institutions to ensure that learners are equipped with the skills, knowledge and experiences needed to succeed. Pass/fail grading constructs do not provide enough information, regarding the skills and knowledge a learned acquired, thus having long-term consequences to future educational and career progression. Further, pass/fail courses often do not transfer. Therefore, institutions must provide transparency about whether they will waive credit transfer requirements and allow students to receive credit for pass/fail classes to promote seamless transitions and prevent exacerbated equity gaps.   

As we experience continued periods of disruption, state leaders must be prepared to make difficult decisions to prioritize equity to ensure that each learner is able to access and thrive in CTE programs.

This is the second 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 blog in the series 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

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
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Navigating CTE during COVID-19: States Must Maintain a Fierce Commitment to Advancing Quality, Access and Equity in CTE During the Pandemic

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has exacerbated and presented new equity challenges for states. As of mid-April 2020, the majority of Americans in the workforce lost jobs or income during the pandemic, with Latino Americans most likely to have hours or shifts reduced and Black Americans most likely to have been laid off. The pandemic has not only widened racial equity gaps, but it has also illustrated the challenges individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds face. Nearly two-thirds of leaders in districts where the highest percentages of students are from low-income families reported in late March that students’ lack of technology access is a major challenge to teaching during Coronavirus-related closures, compared to just one in five of leaders in districts with the lowest percentage of students from low-income families.

Career Technical Education (CTE) learners, especially historically marginalized populations, are facing significant challenges to accessing and succeeding in CTE programs during the Coronavirus pandemic. A lack of access to technology and the internet, language and technical supports, wrap-around supports and general accommodations have widened existing equity gaps.

To address some of these challenges, states have leveraged various stop-gap strategies. To attend to the digital divide, some states are equipping buses and parking lots with internet hot spots so that learners can access the Internet, while others are partnering with local organizations to provide computers to students who may not have access to them. Specific to CTE, when appropriate, states are sending home technical equipment and instructing students via virtual platforms so that students may continue to engage in hands-on learning. Additionally, states are developing communities of practices to brainstorm how to effectively deliver learning to students at a distance. 

While the delivery of instruction is top of mind for states, other critical supports must be attended to support the “whole” learner. For example, many schools and colleges are also attending to the critical need of food insecurity by providing meals to students in innovative ways. Mental health supports during this stressful time are also critical and many schools and colleges have been able to shift these supports online, allowing learners to reach out via direct messaging on various social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.   

Now more than ever, states must maintain their fierce commitment to advancing quality, access and equity in CTE. As equity gaps widen and deepen, states must support each learner in accessing, feeling welcome in, fully participating in and successfully completing a high-quality CTE program. 

This is the first in a series of blogs that will map out how state leaders can continue to advance equity, quality and access during the Coronavirus pandemic. 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

By Brianna McCain in COVID-19 and CTE
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What Works in Postsecondary Work-Based Learning?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. As the labor market changes and demands for a skilled workforce increase, there is renewed interest in work-based learning (WBL) programs across the country. Earlier this month The Urban Institute released a report on the topic, titled Expanding and Improving Work-Based Learning in Community Colleges. The report draws on national data and interviews with six community colleges and documents what is known about the implementation and outcomes of WBL models in community colleges, what strategies community colleges are adopting to measure WBL, and potential steps to improve measurement and address key challenges in expanding and improving WBL in community colleges. 

At the postsecondary level, WBL consists of opportunities such as apprenticeships, internships and cooperative education (co-op), which provide career preparation and training in a work setting that involves supervision or mentoring and connects to classroom or academic experience. Community colleges are vitally important institutions in preparing learners for the workforce, as they award most of the career-oriented credentials in the country. However measurement of WBL in community college contexts is limited and, as such, we know little about how common WBL programs are in these institutions, what models and approaches work best and for whom, who is able to access opportunities, and what outcomes and impacts they deliver for learners, businesses partners and colleges. 

Findings from the report suggest several challenges facing WBL programs including access, equity and diversity. These challenges are even more pressing given the evidence of positive outcomes for learners who are able to experience WBL. The report found that participants in Registered Apprenticeship programs earn higher wages, are more productive, and are less likely to use public benefit programs compared to comparable workers. 

In order to improve WBL at the community college level, the report recommends strategies for measuring WBL, evaluating progress toward diversity and equity goals, and improving data collection practices. For example Cincinnati State Technical and Community College has an institutional research staff member working in their career center. This person collects and analyzes data that in turn informs career services. The report specifically recommends state education and workforce officials develop state definitions of WBL, develop common data elements for tracking WBL, share employment data with colleges to support performance improvement, and incorporate WBL into the state longitudinal systems of data tracking. 

Community colleges are in a unique position to change the way WBL is experienced across the country. They serve about 12 million diverse learners, many of whom are women or learners of color. This makes these institutions ideal vehicles for closing long-standing equity gaps in the labor market, preparing the workforce, giving students the skills and knowledge for jobs and careers, and partnering with employers to provide the talent they need.

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

By Brian Robinson in Uncategorized
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Tribal Colleges and Universities Take Innovative Approaches to Support Native Populations

Monday, March 9th, 2020

In February, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) hosted an event at the Senate Office Building to discuss innovative strategies, programs and ideas to address the key challenges impacting Native higher education. To unpack these challenges and strategies, the event featured panelists from colleges that primarily serve American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian populations. 

Much of the event focused on how Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are able to meet the needs of Native populations. Specifically, the panelists discussed how TCUs address barriers to access for learners. While TCUs are one of the most affordable postsecondary education options with an average annual tuition of $3,592, the cost of attending a TCU can still be a barrier to learners. To address this and transportation issues, Sitting Bull College in North Dakota provides tuition waivers and transportation to and from the college. 

Core to advancing equity in Career Technical Education (CTE) and the broader education field is not only ensuring that students have access to CTE and education programs, but also taking action so that learners feel welcome in and can fully participate in education programs. Panelists emphasized how TCUs are able to create an inclusive environment for Native learners through providing intentional supports and preserving Native populations’ cultures. For instance, Ilisagvik College in Alaska developed a pathway program that places students in cohorts to help learners feel supported and part of the community. 

Many of the panelists discussed the role language plays in creating an environment that students feel welcome in and can succeed in. In Hawai’i, learners can take courses taught in Olelo Hawaii, the Native Hawai’ian language, from infancy through doctoral programs. TCUs take approaches to ensure that Native languages continue to be commonly spoken in the community and the classroom. In Montana, Salish Kootenai College created an apprenticeship program that allows participants to become qualified in both Salish language fluency and effective teaching strategies to meet the demand for Salish language teachers. 

The event ended with a discussion about changes that can be made to the Higher Education Act (HEA) to help support TCUs. Specifically, AIHEC proposes two new programs and modifications to two existing programs during HEA reauthorization:

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
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New Survey Highlights a Persistent Skills Gap; What Can States Do to Strengthen the Talent Pool?

Tuesday, 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

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

By Brian Robinson in Research
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The State of CTE and Workforce Development Services for Incarcerated Youth

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Only eight states currently offer all juvenile justice involved youth in secure facilities the opportunity to take onsite or online Career Technical Education (CTE) courses, develop soft employability skills, engage in work-based learning and earn an industry-recognized credential. This finding comes from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center’s On Track: How Well Are States Preparing Youth in the Juvenile Justice System for Employment report, which examines the state of CTE and workforce development services for incarcerated youth in all 50 states.

The report found that most incarcerated youth are not provided the workforce development services necessary to obtain viable employment in the community after release. Notably, only 26 states provide on-site or online CTE programs to incarcerated youth. This access challenge is compounded by the quality of these programs. High-quality CTE programs align with high-skill, high-wage and in-demand occupations. However, the CSG’s report found that few states offer CTE courses to all youth in key areas of labor market growth. 

Other key findings from the report include that most state juvenile justice facilities lack the partnerships needed to help incarcerated youth overcome barriers to obtaining viable employment and most states do not track key employment outcomes for incarcerated youth while they are in facilities and after their release. To help state and local leaders address these challenges and the barriers that hinder juvenile justice involved youth from obtaining viable employment, the report includes a checklist of best practices. 

Some of these best practices include ensuring that CTE course offerings and other workforce development services are focused on areas of local job growth and are informed by feedback from employers; workforce development data is disaggregated by youth demographics, facility and program/provider to identify trends and disparities; and CTE courses and trainings in juvenile justice facilities lead to industry-recognized credentials. 

State leaders have a responsibility to identify and dismantle historical barriers and construct systems that support each learner, including juvenile justice involved youth, in accessing, feeling welcome in, fully participating in and successfully completing a high-quality CTE program of study. The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) provides state leaders with a critical opportunity to improve their juvenile justice system. Specifically, Perkins V increases the allowable state set-aside funding from one percent to two percent to serve individuals in State Institutions and specifically adds juvenile justice facilities to the types of institutions where these funds can be used. State leaders can leverage these funds to improve CTE programs in juvenile justice facilities. 

To learn more about the CSG report and how state leaders can leverage Perkins V to improve CTE programs in juvenile justice facilities, click here to access the Leveraging Perkins V to Improve CTE Programs in the Juvenile Justice System webinar recording and slides. 

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
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