Posts Tagged ‘Coronavirus’

A Learner-Centered Approach to Early Postsecondary Opportunities Amid COVID-19

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Now that the spring 2020 semester has come to a close, schools, colleges and learners across the country are left with the uncomfortable question: what happens next? Amid the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, the U.S. has faced widespread school closures and an unprecedented – albeit clunky – transition to remote learning. Even as states begin to lift restrictions, the path ahead is still uncertain.

Last week the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) and Advance CTE explored some of the ways the Coronavirus has impacted – and will continue to impact – Career Technical Education (CTE) and Early Postsecondary Opportunities (EPSO), which include dual enrollment, dual credit, concurrent enrollment and other related opportunities. There is no silver bullet solution to these challenges, but state leaders and postsecondary institutions are already thinking of ways to minimize the impact on learners and, to the extent possible, to support continuity of learning through the summer and into the fall.

Hold Learners Harmless

One principle states and educational institutions should commit to is to hold learners harmless from the impacts of the Coronavirus, particularly the financial and academic burdens. States like Ohio have already taken steps to protect learners, issuing guidance that prohibits school districts from seeking reimbursement from students who withdraw from a postsecondary course due to Coronavirus-related disruptions.

Further, states are honoring students’ commitment to learning by giving them opportunities to earn credit for the work they have completed. In North Carolina, graduating high school seniors who are enrolled in EPSO courses will be given a passing grade – coded “PC19” to indicate the unusual circumstances of the pandemic – to ensure they can still meet graduation requirements. States like Georgia and Louisiana are giving learners additional time to complete course requirements over the summer.

Commit to Transparency

As states, higher education systems and local institutions adjust grading policies amid Coronavirus-related shutdowns, they must commit to transparency and provide clarity about how credit transfer will be supported. There are questions about binary grades and their impact on the transferability of EPSO courses to two-year and four-year institutions. States with guaranteed transfer acceptance and institutions with transparent policies for addressing binary credit offer students their best option. Some states have begun to release guidance on EPSOs including CTE dual credit opportunities, which NACEP has compiled here.

Don’t be Afraid to Innovate

States and institutions have adapted remarkably well to social distancing on a very short timeframe, but the hands-on, practical learning experiences that make CTE unique and compelling are often not easy to simulate in a remote or online format. That said, necessity is the mother of invention. Instructors and administrators have started finding creative solutions to maintain continuity of learning, from manufacturing products out of household supplies to distributing at-home lab kits. In Illinois, the Community College Board, Board of Higher Education and Illinois Articulation Initiative are allowing the transfer of credits for lab science course offerings that are delivered through nontraditional formats such as simulations, online labs or at-home science kits. In some cases, campuses are exploring ways to safely facilitate hands-on learning over the summer by cutting class sizes or offering intensive summer bootcamps – all while adhering to social distancing guidelines – to help learners make up missed hours.

Keep Equity Front and Center in Funding

As states face declining revenue and anticipate budget cuts in education and elsewhere, they must consider the critical role these programs play in their societal and economic recovery after the pandemic. Funding to decrease the cost of postsecondary education is an important equity lever to help ensure that the talent pipeline into high-skill, high-wage and in-demand occupations includes the entirety of their diverse communities. But a blanket approach to budget reduction, where all learners receive the same benefit, may imperil this approach.

States should analyze their EPSO funding with an equity lens and, when needed, make cuts that don’t disproportionately impact learners traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Increases in cost to the learner, driven by budget cuts, disproportionately impact learners from economically disadvantaged families who cannot absorb a change in cost like an affluent student can. As states assess the impact of this pandemic on education budgets, they should consider strategic changes to help under-resourced school districts, to address affordability for those students that are most price sensitive, and to look thoughtfully about ways to build access to those underrepresented in higher education. Focusing on equity will be critical to ensure budget cuts don’t exacerbate equity gaps in higher education and ultimately the workforce.

Recognize the Role in Recovery

As state and the national economy recovers and reconfigures, states will be looking to ensure they have a strong, robust talent pipeline to address their current, evolving and future workforce needs. There is a lot of uncertainty in forecasting what the labor market and economy will look like in the next three to five years, but it is certain that revitalizing state economies will depend on access to a skilled, educated workforce. States that have invested in career pathways approaches tied to workforce needs, have strong business and industry engagement in CTE, and strong connections between secondary and postsecondary education and industry already understand the value of these programs in driving the state economy. These relationships and a willingness to partner will yield dividends as states emerge from this crisis.

It is too early to measure the true impact of the Coronavirus on postsecondary readiness and credit attainment, but states and institutions can already anticipate some of the barriers that will come and take steps to address them. The time to act is now. States can and should clarify their policies on CTE EPSOs and ensure that the weight of school closures and learning disruption does not unnecessarily harm learners, particularly those who have the most to benefit from these opportunities.

This blog post is the second in a two-part series about the impacts of the Coronavirus on CTE dual enrollment. It was written by Amy Williams, Executive Director of NACEP, and Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research for Advance CTE.

By Austin Estes in COVID-19 and CTE
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COVID-19 Will Disrupt Early Postsecondary CTE Credit Attainment: Don’t Make Learners Bear the Burden

Monday, June 15th, 2020

The last weeks of March were a test of adaptability for the nation’s education institutions. Over the span of weeks, school districts, community/technical colleges and area technical centers had to amend remote learning policies amid unprecedented school closures. The rapid pace at which systems and institutions have adapted to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has been likened to turning a battleship at the pace of a speedboat.

Early Postsecondary Opportunities (EPSO) – which include dual enrollment, dual credit, concurrent enrollment and other related opportunities – play an important role in facilitating successful transitions between secondary and postsecondary education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately one-third of high school graduates take courses for postsecondary credit at some point during their educational careers. The integration of EPSO courses in Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways is creating options-rich, intuitive linkages between high school, college and career. This approach yields benefits to students, their families and their communities: earning postsecondary CTE credit in high school can lead to higher rates of college enrollment, persistence and success. But as schools, districts and colleges adapt to a new Coronavirus reality and a pervasive shift to online learning, where does that leave learners who are enrolled in CTE EPSO courses?

Coronavirus-related shutdowns put pressure on CTE EPSO courses in a number of ways:

The field has been quick to recognize these challenges, but given the decentralized nature of higher education – in most cases, articulation agreements for CTE credit are negotiated at the local level between individual districts and partner colleges – the response has been inconsistent and incomplete. This situation creates both challenges and opportunities.

So how can states respond to some of these challenges? Next week the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) and Advance CTE will explore some strategies to minimize the burden on students and honor their commitment to learning.

This blog post is the first in a two-part series about the impacts of the Coronavirus on CTE dual enrollment. It was written by Amy Williams, Executive Director of NACEP, and Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research for Advance CTE.

By Austin Estes in COVID-19 and CTE
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Navigating CTE During COVID-19: What Are Credential Providers Doing to Respond to COVID-19?

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Even as unemployment numbers climb steadily upwards and the stock market continues its volatile roller coaster ride, it is far too soon to measure the full effect of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic and its impact on Career Technical Education (CTE) and industry-recognized credential attainment in particular. High schools, community colleges, area technical centers and places of business have shut their doors to protect learners and to comply with state orders. It is fair to predict that, based on the challenges states have encountered in maintaining industry-recognized credentialing opportunities during this time, credential attainment among secondary, postsecondary and adult learners will fall precipitously during the second quarter of 2020.

The slowdown in industry-recognized credential attainment will have a twofold impact on our current crisis. For one, industry-recognized credentials – which verify that an individual is ready for work in a given occupation – can act as barriers to entry in essential industries when education and assessment opportunities are not widely available. This threatens to weaken the workforce pipeline in sectors such as healthcare where access to talent is urgently needed.

Second, as states and businesses start planning for the economic recovery, industry-recognized credentials will help to get millions of recently unemployed Americans retrained and back to work. But without efforts to sustain credentialing opportunities now, there is the possibility of a critical bottleneck as soon as states reopen.

As we covered in an earlier blog post, states have been swift to address industry-recognized credentialing amid the Coronavirus. But what are the credential providers themselves doing to adapt to the crisis? How are they extending flexibility to states and learners without compromising the rigor and validity of their credentials?

Scaling Up Remote Proctoring

Advance CTE examined nearly 20 common credential providers to understand how they are addressing the Coronavirus. These providers were identified using ExcelinEd’s Credentials Matter database and were corroborated using secondary and postsecondary credential lists in three states.

One major takeaway from this research is that many credential providers are making the shift from in-person to remote proctoring, albeit at an additional fee. There are three common approaches to remote proctoring, each of which requires a computer and access to high-speed internet:

Virtual proctoring is the best way that credential providers have been able to meet the sustained demand for industry-recognized credentials amid the pandemic. However, the strategy is not easily scalable and requires significant investment of funds as well as human capital. Not to mention, the reliance on computers and high-speed internet exacerbates the digital divide. States and credential providers should take an equity lens as they work to scale up these opportunities.

Extending Flexibility to Learners and Workers

Aside from virtual proctoring, credential providers have extended flexibility and resources to learners, educators and test takers. To encourage continuity of learning, many providers have made curriculum, resources and other supports and materials available online for free amid COVID-19. The CTE Coalition, a growing partnership of industry associations, non-profits and credential providers, is one example.

Many are also extending eligibility windows for testing, either for learners who have recently applied or met pre-qualifications, or veteran workers whose certifications are up for renewal. This added flexibility takes the pressure off of learners and workers and ensures they can wait to complete their assessments until it is safe to do so.

Additionally, some testing centers have been offering in-person credential examinations on a very limited basis, and only for credentials in essential occupations. In these rare cases, the testing centers have committed to enforcing social distancing and upholding a strict cleaning regimen.

Amid the uncertainty with the Coronavirus, one thing is clear: a qualified and credentialed workforce will be an essential building block for the forthcoming economic recovery. It will take a coordinated effort within and across states, and in partnership with credential providers, to ensure a robust, talented workforce is ready as soon as the doors are open once more. The actions that states and credential providers take today will facilitate a swift recovery once things return to normal.

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research

By Austin Estes in COVID-19 and CTE
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Navigating CTE During COVID-19: How Are States Addressing Industry-recognized Credential Attainment?

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Industry-recognized credentials are an essential component of any high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) program. They indicate the entry-level competencies learners need in a given career field and signal to employers that an individual is prepared for work. But in the midst of a global pandemic, with nearly every state issuing, to varying degrees, stay at home orders that have resulted in school closures and limited access to testing facilities, how can learners continue to earn industry-recognized credentials? 

Over the last decade, there has been a groundswell around industry-recognized credentials. Driven by the Lumina Foundation’s campaign to ensure that 60 percent of U.S. adults hold a credential beyond high school by 2025, nearly every state has set its own postsecondary credential attainment goal. What’s more, many states are also counting industry-recognized credential attainment in their high school accountability systems or are promoting credential attainment through programs such as Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program. 

Challenges for Industry-recognized Credential Attainment

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) threatens to stall many of these policies and initiatives. The requirements for earning an industry-recognized credential vary by type and by provider, but are hard to deliver remotely. Industry-recognized credentials commonly require one or a combination of the following:  

As states have shut down one by one, credentialing opportunities have slowed to a trickle. School districts, institutions of higher education and training providers have been challenged to offer the learning and practical experiences learners need to be eligible for credential exams. Further, testing providers have had to shut their doors or limit access in order to comply with stay at home orders. 

The State Policy Response

The implications of this credentialing slowdown are myriad. For one, many states have baked credential attainment into high school graduation requirements, accountability systems and postsecondary performance-based funding structures. These requirements will need to be waived or loosened in a way that limits harm to learners. In Ohio, the Department of Education has already amended high school graduation requirements for learners pursuing industry-recognized credentials and is allowing learners to earn credentials as soon as it is safe to do so – even if they already have been awarded a diploma. 

Other states are exploring remote proctoring so learners can sit for an industry-recognized credential exam at home. Florida issued guidance for at-home testing for industry certifications, which will allow learners to access exams for credentials on the state-approved Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE) list as long as the credential providers meet certain conditions. However, while a number of credential providers are now offering online proctoring opportunities that are secure and monitored, the technology is expensive to scale and requires the learner to have access to a computer and reliable internet at home. 

The second implication is that credentialing is slowing down at a time when states hit hardest by the coronavirus are experiencing a critical shortage of licensed healthcare workers. In response, governors are issuing emergency licensing waivers in order to permit nursing and medical students as well as retired professionals or those with expired licenses to support the relief effort. In California, for example, the state Board of Registered Nursing has developed guidance on different roles nursing students can play in the field based on competencies developed through prior course taking. 

Finally, with economists already predicting a severe economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus, states will need to accelerate credentialing opportunities for learners transitioning back to work. Even as schools and testing facilities remain closed, states can start thinking now about their economic recovery plan and how to bolster industry-recognized credential attainment in the months and years ahead. 

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research

By Austin Estes in COVID-19 and CTE
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COVID-19 Resources from the U.S. Department of Education: Part Three

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

dThe U.S. Department of Education added a page to its website with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) resources and updates for elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. You can access this information at www.ed.gov/coronavirus. The page will be continuously updated by the Department. Below are brief overviews of what can be found in some of the newest materials. Advance CTE will continue to share posts with a breakdown of the resources, so keep checking the blog!

Education Stabilization Fund Implementation

The recent stimulus legislation, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)  included more than $30 billion in funding to support K-12 and postsecondary programs and learners affected by Coronavirus. On Monday, the Department released a centralized page of resources related to administering these funds. 

Last week, the Department unveiled guidance on disbursement of the first set of funds to help support postsecondary learners that have been affected by Coronavirus. It is expected that in the coming days and weeks, guidance on other funding provisions of the CARES Act will become available.

Updated Guidance for Interruption of Postsecondary Programs of Study 

The Office of Postsecondary Education updated its COVID-19 FAQ and Guidance for interruption of study related to Coronavirus. This guidance, currently remaining in effect until June 30, 2020 “unless otherwise specified,” includes changes that are being implemented based on provisions in the CARES Act. Some of the new guidance includes:

Guidance on Donation or Loan of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Medical Supplies

On Tuesday, the Department released a memo that gives guidance on loaning or donating certain medical supplies or equipment, if that equipment was originally purchased using funds from a Department grant program. The memo indicates that donating PPE or medical supplies to health providers that have been purchased with funds provided by the Department are allowed. Some of the guidance also includes:

Samuel Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

By Samuel Dunietz in COVID-19 and CTE, Legislation, Uncategorized
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COVID-19 Resources from the U.S. Department of Education: Part Three

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

The U.S. Department of Education added a page to its website with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) dresources and updates for elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. You can access this information at www.ed.gov/coronavirus. The page will be continuously updated by the Department. Below are brief overviews of what can be found in some of the materials on postsecondary issues. Advance CTE will continue to share posts with a breakdown of the resources, so keep checking the blog!

 

Guidance for Interruptions of Study Related to CoronavirusThis memo from the Office Of Postsecondary Education gives guidance to institutions on adapting to a broad range of issues in the wake of Coronavirus. Specifically, this memo:

 

COVID-19 FAQs for Institutions of Higher Education and Postsecondary Systems
The Department issued a  fact sheet with frequently asked questions that expands on the guidance memo and goes into a little more detail regarding a few frequently encountered questions for institutions and systems including:

CDC Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education
The CDC guidance includes information about  the role of postsecondary institutions in the mitigation of transmitting  Coronavirus and lays out what steps institutions can take to minimize a spread. This interim guidance page will be updated as more information becomes available. The guidance provides specific instructions depending on if there is no community transmission, minimal to moderate community transmission and substantial community transmission.  

The Department will continue to publish and update resources on its Coronavirus page. Please check back regularly as new content may be added frequently.

Samuel Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

By Samuel Dunietz in Uncategorized
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