Posts Tagged ‘Equity’

How States Are Pushing the Envelope on Postsecondary CTE Data Quality

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

Advance CTE Announces New State-led Initiative

Even before the passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) in 2018, nearly every State CTE Director said that improving the quality and use of CTE data was a top priority in their state. Now, with Perkins V implementation fully underway and COVID-19 (coronavirus) impacting education delivery, it is more important than ever for states to have access to high-quality, actionable CTE data. 

In this environment, Advance CTE is excited to announce the Advancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality Initiative (PDI), generously supported by the ECMC Foundation. Through the initiative, five grantees will receive grant funding, technical assistance and access to a national peer learning network to examine critical problems of practice and implement innovative solutions to improve the quality and use of postsecondary CTE data. Participating states and agencies include: 

Each of the five grantees is well positioned to either accelerate existing work around CTE data quality or push the envelope in new and creative ways. Alabama aims to improve the accuracy of postsecondary CTE enrollment data through the use of its new P20W data system. Delaware strives to implement a new performance accountability model to enhance data linkages and expand access to postsecondary career pathways statewide. Florida is focusing on developing new data models and collection procedures for postsecondary work-based learning programs. The District of Columbia will maximize peer and specialist support to advance its postsecondary CTE data system, which is in its early stages. Oregon will focus on improving data collection and sharing to monitor outcomes for learners in short-term credentialing programs, particularly groups severely impacted by the Coronavirus.  

Over the next two years, grantees will work together as a peer learning network to develop, test and scale innovative strategies. Throughout the initiative, Advance CTE will share promising practices and lessons learned with the field through a series of blogs, webinars, presentations, publications and tools. 

Data is a powerful tool to improve equity and access and strengthen program quality. But it takes leadership and a coordinated strategy to make data work for learners. Advance CTE is excited to work with these states through the PDI to push the envelope on postsecondary CTE data quality. To learn more about the PDI, visit https://careertech.org/initiatives

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research 

By Austin Estes in Advance CTE Announcements
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How COVID-19 is Impacting Young People’s Academic and Career Plans

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

New Survey Data Illuminates the Impact of the Pandemic on Black and Latinx Youth and Youth from Low-Income Families

In the early spring, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic was often referred to as “The Great Equalizer.” After all, pandemics are equal opportunity threats and we all have to wear masks and attend meetings and classes on Zoom. But as the pandemic wore on, it became immediately clear that it would have disproportionate impacts, exacerbating racial and economic inequities that have long existed in the public education system and in the workforce. Without action from state and local leaders, the pandemic could have long-lasting impacts on young people, particularly Black and Latinx youth and youth from low-income families.

The Great Recession of 2008 provides some insights into the threat of the current coronavirus economic crisis. Five years after the Great Recession, youth unemployment was at an all-time high, impacting the career success of Millennials through the present day. Back in 2013, the Center for American Progress projected that young people would lose out on more than $20 billion in earnings over the next 10 years – and many are still struggling with debt and underemployment as a result of the recession.

Today, an emerging generation of young people – often referred to as Generation Z or “Gen Z” – stands at a similar precipice. We are already seeing early warning signs that the pandemic and related economic recession will impact their plans for education and career success.

How Are Young People Responding to the Pandemic?

New research from Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, funded by Equitable Futures, a project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, illuminates the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on young people. In September, the organization released results from the first of four national surveys examining the pandemic’s impact on Black and Latinx youth and youth from low-income families.

One alarming takeaway from the research is that young people are taking on additional economic burdens as a result of the pandemic. Sixteen percent of respondents reported losing income due to decreased work hours or less business, and eight percent have lost an internship, apprenticeship or similar opportunity.

At the same time, young people are taking on additional responsibilities at home. Thirty-two percent of respondents say they are providing care for a younger member of their household, such as a younger sibling, with Black and Latinx youth responding at the highest rates.

As a result, young people are reconsidering their future academic and career plans. More than half of respondents say they value college differently now, with 28 percent reporting that they used to think college would be worth it but now think college is not worth it. Additionally, fewer young people have clarity about their goals and ideas for their futures than they did before the pandemic. In 2019, 43 percent of respondents said they felt clear about their future goals, compared to 27 percent in 2020 — a drop of 16 percentage points.

The coronavirus may not be the great equalizer, but it is the great disrupter. It may be years before we know the full impact of the pandemic and related economic crisis, but we know enough now to see that young people have been interrupted in their pursuit of education and career success in ways that will likely impact credential attainment, employment and earnings for years to come.

Trying Times Require Strong State Leadership

As a nation, we are at a crossroads, and states have a critical role to play in minimizing the impact of the Coronavirus on Black and Latinx learners and learners from low-income families. What can state leaders do to support young people in this time of crisis?

For one, they can provide clear information and guidance to help learners make informed decisions about their academic and career goals. This includes providing clear, transparent information about high-skill, high-wage and in-demand careers, the credentials needed to access those careers, and affordable opportunities to earn those credentials.

Additionally, with many young people experiencing loss of income as a result of the pandemic, state leaders can strengthen earn and learn opportunities so young people are not forced to choose between education and work. Paid work-based learning opportunities like youth apprenticeships are a proven way to build technical and employability skills on the job.

And finally, states can monitor data — including additional research from Goodwin Simon — to understand how Black and Latinx youth and youth from low-income families are being impacted by the pandemic and respond accordingly.

Early data is already illuminating the disastrous effects of the pandemic. State and local leaders can act now to pave the road to economic recovery and well-being for those who have been most impacted by the crisis.

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research, Advance CTE

By Austin Estes in COVID-19 and CTE, Research, Resources
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Getting to Know Wisconsin’s Cultural Support Specialists

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

The “Getting to Know” blog series will feature the work of State CTE Directors, state and federal policies, innovative programs and new initiatives from the Advance CTE staff. Learn more about each one of these topics and the unique contributions to advancing Career Technical Education (CTE) that Advance CTE’s members work on every day.

Advance CTE’s commitment to closing achievement and equity gaps drives the work of improving equity and access for each learner in high-quality CTE. It is that lens that is applied to analyze policies or feature new resources

One state policy that addresses identifiable equity gaps is Wisconsin’s Fox Valley Technical College Cultural Support Specialists. Wisconsin took great strides toward making postsecondary degree attainment more accessible when the state developed Cultural Support Specialist positions. Black learners in the state were earning degrees from the Wisconsin Technical College System at lower rates than White and Asian learners. Fox Valley Technical College of the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Appleton Area School District partnered to create the Cultural Support Specialist position, a joint position between the two institutions responsible for helping students transition from high school to college and overcome some of the structural, social, and cultural barriers that can prevent first generation learners of color from accessing and succeeding in college. 

What makes the Cultural Support Specialist positions unique is: 

Read more about the Cultural Support Specialists in Wisconsin by viewing the full policy profile in our Learning that Works Resource Center

View past entries and stay up to date with the “Getting to Know” series here.

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

By Brittany Cannady in Uncategorized
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Getting to Know Advance CTE’s Work on Equity

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

The “Getting to Know” blog series will feature the work of State CTE Directors, state and federal policies, innovative programs and new initiatives from the Advance CTE staff. Learn more about each one of these topics and the unique contributions to advancing Career Technical Education (CTE) that Advance CTE’s members work on every day.

Meet Kimberly Green! Kimberly serves as the Executive Director for Advance CTE, where she has been a part of the organization for over 25 years! In the interview below, she shares a little about Advance CTE’s commitment to equity and how her federal advocacy work aligns.

Q. What are a few organizational steps Advance CTE has taken to promote equity?

A. Our organization has not always prioritized equity. It was just a few years ago – in 2018 –  that we began to make the shift to position equity as foundational to our work. We knew we had to approach this work with humility, acknowledging that we had a lot of learning, listening and growing to do. To help with this, we launched an Equity Kitchen Cabinet composed of Advance CTE members and a National Committee on Equity that included representatives of national organizations leading civil rights and equity in education work, to serve as mentors and thought partners. Both groups informed our Board-approved statement on equity

As a leader, I always strive to have our organization model what we hope to see in states. After listening and learning from our partners over the course of the year, I knew we had to turn the equity work inward, examining Advance CTE’s organizational culture and processes. Through a year-long grant from the Associated Black Charities (ABC) our staff participated in three, day-long trainings, our leadership received monthly coaching sessions from an equity expert. We conducted an internal equity audit and chose to focus our efforts this first year to revise our recruitment and hiring practices and evaluation system. This grant gave us the skills and confidence to release this statement in June of this year, which outlines a set of commitments that we are working to live up to. As the ABC grant just ended, we are investing our organizational resources to extend this internal work with our next year’s priorities being: building equity into our onboarding curriculum for all new staff; three more, full-day staff trainings; establishing a set of core values; standing up a diversity, equity and inclusion advisory group and more. 

Q. In your work aligned with federal advocacy, what have you witnessed that you are most proud of related to equity and access for learners?

A. I am proud that we advocated for and were successful in positioning equity at the heart of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V).  Our advocacy broadened the historical equity focus beyond gender equity. Through the comprehensive local needs assessment, a new requirement that we and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) authored, ensures that policy and fiscal decisions are driven by data and prioritize closing equity gaps. 

Q. Do you have any recommended resources for states to promote equity in CTE?

A. While we have done a lot of internal work, we have also created a number of assets and tools for the CTE community under the Making Good on the Promise Series. This series examines how states can leverage data to identify and address equity gaps, rebuild trust with historically underserved communities, expand access to high-quality CTE for each and every learner and build systems to ensure learner success. This year, in partners from the National Equity Committee, we added to the series through population-specific resources, including a focus on students with disabilities, homeless youth (forthcoming) and justice-involved youth. We also will be releasing a series of assets to help states build their capacity to conduct opportunity gap analysis, a foundational step to identify where gaps exist. In addition to Advance CTE assets, the U.S. Department of Education has assets states can find here and our partners at the National Alliance for Partnership in Equity have some great resources here.

View past entries and stay up to date with the Getting to Know series here.

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

By Brittany Cannady in Resources
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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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What Do State CTE Directors Want to Learn from the Research Community?

Monday, 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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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

Thursday, 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: 

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

By Austin Estes in Advance CTE Resources, Publications, Research, Resources
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How Higher Education Can Support Adult Learners

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

While most people think of the typical college student as coming directly from high school, the reality is that 38 percent of college students today are 25 or older. On July 9, Higher Learning Advocates organized a panel titled Pathways to Success: Supporting Today’s Adult Students to discuss the unique challenges adult learners face in postsecondary education and potential solutions.

The panel included:

Many high school graduates enter the workforce directly instead of pursuing postsecondary education, and with today’s tight labor market, many can find high-wage employment without an advanced degree. However, as industries change and labor markets shift, workers will need additional, more specialized skills to stay competitive. Programs like the Eastern Ohio Education Partnership help adults obtain degrees and certifications so they can advance in the workforce and sustain high-wage, high-skill and in-demand employment.

Entering postsecondary education as an adult comes with challenges. One of Elias’s biggest concerns as a mother was access to not only affordable childcare, but childcare offered at times after the normal work day to accommodate her night classes. She is not alone: 26 percent of adult students are parents, and access to childcare makes it difficult to finish a degree or certification. Schedule flexibility is important even for adult students without children, as over half work while in college

So what can be done to better address the needs of adult learners? Postsecondary institutions and policymakers can create flexibility in financial aid to allow more adults to afford education. This option is part of the reason The College of Healthcare Professions is able to educate so many adult learners. Universities can also address the needs of adult learners by accepting transfer credits earned at a previous institution toward a degree or certificate. Beyond these institutional changes, there are ways to make adult students feel more included on campus with small adjustments. Making campuses feel more family friendly is a great way to get adult students integrated. This can be as simple as encouraging members to bring their family along to events hosted by different student organizations.

One of Elias’s core suggestions was mandatory career advising for students who receive any money from the federal government. This ensures students know what courses they need to take in order to graduate on time with their intended major and that federal dollars support individuals who will be career ready when they graduate. Understanding the challenges adult students face today creates space to develop solutions for a better experience in higher education.

Jordan Dreisbach, Policy Intern

By Austin Estes in Uncategorized
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Can Afterschool Programs Help Address CTE’s Equity Challenges?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Afterschool programs can give students access to enriching career exploration opportunities outside of the school day, but many of these programs are not accessible to all middle schoolers. Last month, the Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, organized a panel on making the most of middle school career exploration. This panel’s particular focus was the important role that afterschool programs can play in exposing students to career pathways. 

The panel included:

Afterschool programs encompass a wide range of activities that keep students engaged in their own learning outside of the regular school day. When students participate in an afterschool program in middle school, they are more likely to graduate high school. These programs offer opportunities for students to improve their skills in subjects ranging from computer science to agriculture. Learning these skills and interacting with professionals in a variety of fields allows students to explore and pursue different career paths of interest.

Expanding Access to High-quality Career Exploration After School

Despite all these programs have to offer, there are still major barriers to creating and expanding access to high-quality, career-focused afterschool programming in middle school. When panelists were asked about the largest barriers facing afterschool programming, their responses ranged from the difficulties of creating community partnerships to the lack of funding. Andrew Coy—whose organization, Digital Harbor, focuses on developing technology skills like computer programming, video game design and 3-D printing— summed up these issues as the need to have “formal support for informal learning.” This problem remains largely in communities of lower socioeconomic status, limiting access to enriching learning opportunities for students who could benefit the most.

The impacts that these programs have on middle schoolers make them worth the investment. Student panelist Jacob excitedly talked about the experiences he had with Digital Harbor—such as going to museums, participating in the White House science fair and learning to 3-D print—showing how important it is to give students a place to be creative. Jacob even earned certifications in Information Technology through the program. Having such a space outside of the classroom to encourage hands-on learning and career exploration allows students like Jacob to develop real world skills and get a leg up on both college and their careers. 

Afterschool programs can also help close equity gaps by equipping learners with skills that may not be offered in the regular classroom but are highly valued in the job market. Exposing learners to new and different career pathways allows for diversity in these fields as more students can see themselves inhabiting those roles. Panelist Daniela Grigioni discussed how her organization, After-School All-Stars, engages middle schoolers, predominantly students of color, to help them build skills through programs in business and STEM. Early introduction to career exploration can help promote more equity within these fields.

By expanding career exploration in and out of the classroom, state leaders can foster creativity and passion among middle school students. This opens a pathway for students to imagine careers for themselves by giving them a sense of their options and what they do and do not want to do at an earlier age. 

To read more about middle school CTE, check out Advance CTE’s report, Expanding Middle School CTE to Promote Lifelong Learning Success

Jordan Dreisbach, Policy Intern

By Austin Estes in Uncategorized
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Checking in on New Skills for Youth States: How States Have Set their Sights on Access and Equity

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

The Met, a work-based learning focused technical center in Providence, Rhode Island, serves about 800 students across the state. It is also one of eight recipients of Rhode Island’s new Innovation and Equity grant program, a $1.2 million program to help local districts identify and support populations that are underrepresented in high-skill, in-demand career pathways. Using funding from the Innovation and Equity grant program, the Met is working to recruit low-income learners into the Finance program and help them earn high-value credentials that have immediate value in the labor market.

Access and equity is a priority for Rhode Island and its nine peer states in the New Skills for Youth initiative, a focus that is highlighted in a new series of state snapshots released today. In 2017, each New Skills for Youth state was awarded $2 million to help transform career readiness opportunities for learners in their states. After spending the early part of the initiative establishing partnerships and laying the policy groundwork for success, states turned to implementation, with a focus on equity, in 2018.

Some states are focusing on including learners with disabilities in high-quality career pathways. For example, Delaware piloted a new program in 2018 called PIPELine to Career Success to remove barriers for learners with disabilities to access work-based learning experiences. The program is a two-year process in which school districts identify barriers to access, examine their root causes, and then implement strategies to close access gaps. The Delaware Department of Education has made grants available to three pilot districts and hopes to scale the approach across the state in the future.

Other states are working to expand access to advanced coursework for underserved populations. Rhode Island Innovation and Equity program is one such initiative. Another is Ohio’s Expanding Opportunities for Each Child grant. The state leveraged a rarely used allowance in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which lets states set aside up to 3 percent of their Title I funds for Direct Student Services grants, to award more than $7 million to 17 sites in economically disadvantaged communities. The grants are designed to either develop and expand career pathways or improve access to advanced coursework (including AP, IB and CTE).

Additionally, New Skills for Youth states are embedding equity as a core principle in both policy and practice. Several states are implementing statewide initiatives in support of academic and career planning, and they have focused their training, guidance and supports to emphasize the importance of equity. Others have built considerations about equity into their criteria for designating – and funding – high-quality career pathways. These steps ensure that questions of equity and access are addressed at every stage, from design to implementation.

The 2019 calendar year is the final year of this stage of the New Skills for Youth initiative. As states look beyond the end of the initiative, one question that is front and center in the year ahead is how they will secure commitment and funding to keep the focus on career readiness. States have made a lot of progress, and the efforts they have taken to embed equity in policy and practice will have a lasting impact for years to come. But state leaders understand they must continue to elevate this work as a priority to ensure their efforts in New Skills for Youth can be sustained and scaled in the future.

The state snapshots were developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and the Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Advance CTE Resources, Publications, Resources
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