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

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


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