Elevating Learner Voice Through Youth Participatory Action Research in Kentucky

March 26th, 2024

How prepared do learners feel to use the certification they have earned through their CTE program? Do learners feel their certification will increase their chances of employment after graduation? A group of learners in Kentucky are working with Advance CTE and the Kentucky Student Voice Team to find out. In this blog, Membership and Policy Associate, Amy Hodge introduces this new initiative.

In September 2023 , Advance CTE launched an exciting new pilot initiative to engage state Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders in the youth participatory action research space. This project centers the belief that CTE programs should be designed with learners, not simply for learners, as learners are too often left out of key conversations about what access, quality, and success look like. Youth participatory action research (YPAR) is an exciting approach for engaging learners in policy and practice decision-making.

The CTE Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project is a collaboration between the Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT), the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Postsecondary Council on Education (CPE), and Fayette County Public Schools. This pilot is generously funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and aligns with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where learners have agency and feel empowered to advocate for high-quality CTE programs.

Advance CTE helped recruit a group of 15 high school-aged learners to receive training from the Kentucky Student Voice Team on designing their own YPAR project. Learners came from three career academies in Fayette County, KY, including Tates Creek High School, Bryan Station High School, and Frederick Douglass High School. These school teams receive bi-monthly training from the Kentucky Student Voice Team to learn about different youth research strategies, survey design, and how to use these findings to become more effective advocates for high-quality CTE programs in their state. 

After they’ve designed and collected responses from their school community, learners will have the opportunity to present their findings and recommendations to state-level leadership and inform future policies. Throughout this first phase of the work, Advance CTE will identify ways to scale this process in other states and communities in the future and make recommendations for state CTE leaders looking to incorporate more learner voices into how programs are designed and delivered.

The academy teams have completed sessions about the fundamentals of YPAR, reviewing different pathways for students to have a voice and seat at the table in education decision-making, research fundamentals, and survey question design, construction, and distribution. Themes have begun to emerge as these learners narrow in on the focus of their research questions. These themes include:

  • Certification effectiveness now and in the future
  • CTE’s preparation for learners’ career and life after graduation
  • Additional CTE programs that aren’t currently available to learners
  • Learners’ understanding of and comfort with CTE 
  • Learners’ perceptions of educator and school support in CTE [programs]

Questions that learners identified through their preliminary exploration include:

  • How prepared do learners feel to use the certification they have earned through their CTE program?
  • How connected do you feel with your teachers at school?
  • How much do you feel your certification increases your chances of employment after graduation?

Advance CTE Members will be able to learn more about this project when the school teams present at Advance CTE’s Fall Meeting in October. 

Learn more about KSVT!

The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) is an independent, youth-led nonprofit that works to co-create more just, democratic Kentucky schools and communities by partnering with research, policy, and advocacy partners across the state.

For more information and tools to design a learner-centered CTE program, visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Member and Policy Associate


Funding Career Technical Education: Making State-Level Investments to Support Unique Elements of CTE

February 27th, 2024

Advance CTE released the 2023 State of CTE: An Analysis of State Secondary CTE Funding Models to highlight how states and the District of Columbia provide high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) through various secondary CTE funding models and approaches. This blog, the fourth in a series, describes ways states invest in CTE programs through line item appropriations to support unique elements of CTE. This blog unveils new information not available in the State of CTE Funding release.


States make significant contributions to CTE programs through non-categorical, line item appropriations. Programmatic funding is distributed through periodic, legislatively established authorizations that are contingent on the availability of funds. States often place conditions on how money should be spent or used to promote state priorities. Additionally, a programmatic line item appropriation can be a recurring or a one-time investment. This blog highlights appropriations in industry-recognized credentials, Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), career advisement, and educator preparation for fiscal year (FY) 2022. You can read more about categorical funding in the first blog in this series, Funding Career Technical Education: Secondary CTE Funding Basics

These key state investments often pilot new programs, sustain existing programs, provide training to educators and professionals, or allow purchases for needed equipment and supplies. These investments certainly allow Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to scale and improve program quality, which aligns with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where continuous improvement is needed at all levels within systems.  

Investing in Unique Elements of CTE

State funding through non-categorical, line item appropriations is incredibly common; 80 percent of state leaders surveyed in summer 2022 reported some line items for CTE programs. 

Industry-recognized Credentials

Helping learners have access to and earn industry-recognized credentials can make them more competitive for future work and educational opportunities. States may offer reimbursements to the learner, educator, or local institutions for the completion of credentials. There are expenses associated with industry-recognized credentials such as exam fees, materials, books, or supplies. 

Thirteen state leaders reported appropriations for industry-recognized credentials in FY 2022. 

  • Indiana enacted H.B. 1001 and appropriated $200,000 to the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to help cover the expenses for earning industry-recognized credentials. 
  • Ohio appropriated $8 million for credential reimbursements to districts and $12.5 million for the Innovative Workforce Incentive Program through H.B. 110, which awards districts, community schools, STEM schools, and joint vocational school districts $1,250 for each credential a student earns from a list of priority credentials established by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. 


CTSOs allow learners to gain academic, workplace, and technical skills, build networks, and pursue leadership experiences that are needed to succeed in today’s global workforce. 

Twelve state leaders reported line item appropriations for CTSOs, with appropriations ranging from $125,000 to $2.52 million per year in FY 2022. Most states allocated the funds toward one or more of the 11 CTSOs specifically authorized in the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V). 

  • South Carolina allowed funds through H. 4100 for a Career Cluster Partnership Program to be used for organizations’ statewide student competitions leading to national competitions. 

Career Advisement

Offering comprehensive and connected career advisement systems helps all learners get the support and guidance to gain skills and explore future careers. 

Nine state leaders reported line item appropriations for career advisement in FY 2022. 

Other states have made one-time investments to help pilot programs and offerings. 

  • North Carolina enacted S.B. 105 and appropriated $1.5 million in non-recurring funds to use a ScholarPath platform to create a 12th-grade transition pilot program. The program is an education planning and communication platform that helps learners and their families use O*NET data to connect and match learners to high-demand careers. 

Other states focused on providing resources for professionals who help with career advisement and planning. 

  • Arkansas appropriated $6.31 million toward a career coaches public school fund and program grants for career education services for students with special needs through H.B. 1167

CTE Educator Preparation

There remains room for improvement in CTE educator preparation as only Georgia, Minnesota, and Virginia reported line item appropriations for CTE educator preparation in FY 2022. 

  • Minnesota enacted S.F.No.9 and provided $400,000 to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System for a CTE educator pilot project. 
  • Virginia’s H.B.1800 appropriated $1.3 million for information technology (IT) industry certifications, which included the use of funds to increase the number of teachers in targeted CTE areas and teachers who receive training in IT and industry-recognized certifications.

You can learn more about identifying funding streams that support CTE educator diversity by reading Advance CTE’s State and Local Strategies for Diversifying the CTE Educator Workforce


Programmatic line item appropriations are additional sources of funding to leverage to support important components of career preparation ecosystems. State leaders should take the following action steps:

  • Tell the story of state investment in CTE at the local level so LEAs can best leverage resources across funding streams. Although most states provide funding for secondary CTE, due to a lack of sufficient state-level accountability and data collection, states do not have lines of sight into how LEAs are using funds. Therefore, measuring the impact of state funding and advocating for evolution in either the structure or levels of state funding is challenging. 
  • Review federal, state, and local funding sources, including the purpose, population it will serve, and eligibility requirements. Identify manuals or documents that explain the allowable use cases for the state funding streams. Explore how to braid the funding with other resources to get the most value for CTE investments. 
  • Establish a sustainability plan to navigate shifts in funding. These programmatic line item appropriations may be one-time investments. Having a plan in place to offer continuity of high-quality CTE programs and services will ease the barrier of loss of funding.

Additional Resources

Be sure to read the other blogs in this series: 

We also encourage you to watch the Exploring State Secondary CTE Funding webinar.  

Dr. Laura Maldonado, Senior Research Associate

Dr. Laura Maldonado is a Senior Research Associate with Advance CTE. In this role, Laura directly supports Advance CTE’s policy research and technical assistance initiatives, data quality initiatives and internal data strategy.

Introducing the New and Improved Research Warehouse Dashboard!

February 2nd, 2024

Advance CTE’s mission is to support state CTE leadership to advance high-quality and equitable Career Technical Education (CTE) policies, programs and pathways that ensure career and college success for each learner. To support this mission, we are pleased to announce the release of a previously internal, interactive research dashboard. Advance CTE’s Research Warehouse Dashboard will provide CTE leaders with relevant and timely CTE research that covers a wide range of topics and evidence-based outcomes such as return on investment, academic performance and postsecondary credential attainment.

Through the Research Warehouse Dashboard, users will have the ability to filter research reports and quickly access resource findings with helpful descriptions of the research summaries. This tool will elevate evidence-backed practices from both state and national organizations to provide CTE leaders with strategies that they can implement across their own programs.

The research shared has been cultivated from a variety of resources, including but not limited to survey analyses, quantitative and qualitative research and reports featuring data from national organizations.

Advance CTE leaders can use the research warehouse dashboard when completing literature reviews, drafting report introductions, and identifying supplemental resources for online webinars or professional development.

The dashboard highlights CTE-related research across the following categories:

   Learner Level

  • K-12
  • Postsecondary
  • Adults

    Policy Area

  • Access/Equity
  • Accountability
  • Career Advising
  • Competency-based Education
  • Credentials of Value
  • Credit for Prior Learning
  • CTE Participation
  • Dual Enrollment
  • Funding
  • Future of Work
  • Labor Market Alignment
  • Online Learning
  • Program Quality
  • Programs of Study
  • Skills Gap
  • Teachers and Leaders
  • Work-based Learning


  • Academic Performance
  • Credential Attainment
  • Employability Skills
  • Family Sustaining Wages
  • High School Graduation
  • Postsecondary Completion
  • Postsecondary Credential Attainment
  • Postsecondary Transfer
  • Postsecondary Transitions
  • Return on Investment
  • Transitions to the Workforce



Updates to the Research Warehouse Dashboard will be made quarterly and featured research can be found through the monthly Research Round-Up blogs. Access the dashboard here in our Resource Center

Funding Career Technical Education: Incorporating Elements Into Funding Models to Address CTE Access, Completion and Program Quality

January 24th, 2024

Advance CTE released the 2023 State of CTE: An Analysis of State Secondary CTE Funding Models to highlight how states and the District of Columbia provide high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) through various secondary CTE funding models and approaches. This blog, the third in a series, describes ways states have incorporated elements into their funding models to address CTE access, completion and program quality. 


Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE calls on states to design equitable funding models that direct funding to where it is needed most. Funding is not just about budget sheets but about investing in and fostering an environment where every learner’s potential is unleashed. A state’s commitment to CTE is reflected in their financial decisions, and states are making changes to secondary CTE funding models to better serve and offer opportunities for all learners.


Advance CTE conducted a survey with State CTE Directors in summer 2022 to better understand the extent to which states are currently incorporating elements into funding models to address CTE access, completion and program quality. Forty-six state leaders responded to the survey, and Advance CTE followed up with select state leaders in interviews to gather additional information about dimensions of equity.

Some of the most salient findings from the survey of State CTE Directors include:

65 percent reported state funds supported access to secondary CTE programs for all learners, 56 percent reported state funds supported completion of secondary CTE programs of study for all learners, 54 percent reported state funds supported access to equipment and resources in CTE classrooms, 47 percent reported state funds supported access to college and career advisement, and 44 percent reported state funds supported attainment of CTE certifications while in high school.

There remains room for innovation in states’ secondary funding models as almost half of states are not supporting funding in one or several of the dimensions of equity. Additionally, almost a fifth of State CTE Directors indicated their state funding does not reflect any of the dimensions of equity. States should continue to evaluate and incorporate changes to secondary CTE funding models to ensure all learners have access and success through CTE.  

Highlighted Practices

States such as Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas are linking state funding to state-approved CTE programs meeting quality standards. This move ensures access for learners regardless of their geographical location. 

Other states, including Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, are incentivizing learner enrollment and success in certain CTE courses or programs aligned with state labor market needs. These states use varying weights (i.e., multipliers) based on program types or course levels, aligning educational goals with workforce demands. For example, Indiana allocates amounts based on the number of CTE credit hours generated by districts and the enrollment in apprenticeship programs or work-based learning.1

Recent shifts in foundational education formulas or bonus structures have also resulted in positive change. Massachusetts, for instance, introduced incremental funding to its formula for Chapter 70 (i.e., the major program of state aid to public elementary and secondary schools) under the Student Opportunity Act, benefitting English language learners and learners experiencing low income, including those in CTE programs.2 You can learn more about Massachusetts in the state case study accompanying this release.

In Texas, local education agencies (LEAs) can earn outcomes bonuses for learners meeting the state’s college, career or military readiness measures. This bonus is weighted for learners who are considered economically disadvantaged or who are enrolled in special populations thereby tailoring additional funds to cater to learner needs, especially within CTE programs.3 You can learn more about Texas in the state case study and read about additional examples in the Research Report accompanying this release.


State leaders should consider the following recommendations if they plan to leverage funding incentives and/or prioritize geographies, learner or program characteristics and/or program areas:

  • Incentivize success for special populations and subgroups. Providing LEAs with bonuses for outcomes achieved by special populations and subgroups not only encourages LEAs to eliminate CTE enrollment barriers but also incentivizes districts to provide all learners with the support they need to be successful. 
  • Acknowledge that each learner has unique experiences, backgrounds and needs by using learner markers (e.g., special population status) to direct additional state funding where it is needed most. These special population status markers can include low income, disability and English language learner status. Embed learner characteristics or markers as a factor in formulas to ensure that the highest-need learners are getting the supports to access and succeed in high-quality CTE programs. 
  • Consider how to provide CTE beyond geographic borders, incentivizing schools or districts offering virtual learning opportunities or access to publicly funded CTE programs not offered in learners’ home LEA.4 This strategy could be especially helpful in areas where geography can limit program availability and career exposure. 

Funding structures must continually evolve to bridge resource gaps among different learners. State CTE Directors can help shape funding conversations so learners thrive in an ever-evolving CTE landscape.

Additional Resources

Be sure to read the other blogs in this series: Funding Career Technical Education: Secondary CTE Funding Basics and Funding Career technical Education: Using the 2023 State of CTE Funding Report Resources. In the next blog in this series, we will explore how states also make contributions to CTE programs through non-categorical programmatic appropriations to support unique elements of CTE.

Please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center for additional resources about CTE funding. 

Dr. Laura Maldonado, Senior Research Associate

Research Round-up: Building and Expanding Registered Apprentice Programs through Community College Partnerships

November 30th, 2023

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s blog elevates state examples of how federal funding might be used to administer youth apprenticeship. These findings align with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where each learner’s skills are counted, valued, and portable. 


In celebration of Apprenticeship Month, we’re elevating two reports from New America that provide state CTE leaders with helpful information about opportunities to leverage (or braid) funding to support youth apprenticeship or registered apprenticeship (RA) programs.


Earlier this spring, New America published a blog, “Leveraging Existing Federal Funding Streams for Youth Apprenticeship,” in response to memos from the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE), the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) outlining how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V) can be applied in more flexible and innovative ways to support youth apprenticeship. New America then published a research study in early November on the challenges and opportunities facing community colleges that want to expand apprenticeship opportunities to their students. This report, “Community Colleges and Apprenticeship: The Promise, the Challenge” expands on key blog recommendations; notably, that state CTE leaders should consider using federal funds to partner with an experienced intermediary organization to build out RA programs statewide

Apprenticeship Intermediaries

An apprenticeship intermediary is similar to “workforce intermediaries” in the public workforce system, which has a long history of facilitating connections between public and private services and workers. Unlike Registered Apprenticeship, which is well defined and regulated by the DOL, there is no definition of an “apprenticeship intermediary” in federal statute. In their study, New America utilizes the definition coined by the federal government, “An apprenticeship intermediary helps to build, launch, and run apprenticeship programs in collaboration with other apprenticeship partners. Just as many organizations may participate in apprenticeship partnerships—including employers, and often also labor organizations, secondary and postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations (CBOs), and industry organizations or associations—an equally wide array of organizations may perform intermediary functions.” 

Intermediaries typically support program development and delivery; stakeholder engagement; monitoring, evaluation, and support services; and strategy and field building. These responsibilities make community colleges a strong contender to serve in this role as many of these services are already built into the institution.


This study found that community colleges are uniquely positioned to support the expansion of apprentices by acting as apprenticeship intermediaries”

  • Community colleges successfully balance the needs of employers and apprentices because of their overlapping missions in training, workforce, and economic development as well as their experience serving diverse students.
  • Nontraditional apprenticeships—like nursing and cybersecurity—can warrant a more active community college intermediary role because the occupations require academic credentials to get and keep a job.
  • Community colleges acting as intermediaries can reduce the financial burden on students who want to train by tapping into a range of public funding options.


State and system policy plays a key role in supporting community colleges as apprenticeship intermediaries. State CTE leaders seeking to leverage community colleges to expand apprenticeship participation can:

  • Create a last-dollar scholarship or tuition waiver policy.
  • Integrate apprenticeship models into the funding formula.
  • Adjust licensure requirements to remove prohibitive cost barriers.
  • Brokering partnerships with universities to apply for DOL grants. 

For further reading

Leveraging Existing Federal Funding Streams for Youth Apprenticeship also addresses the use of federal funds for teacher preparation programs.

Please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center for additional resources about the benefits of expanding apprenticeships and strategies for leveraging community college partnerships.

Amy Hodge, Membership and Policy Associate

Research Round-up: Impact of Career-Connected Learning on Learner Engagement and Hope

October 30th, 2023

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s blog highlights the impact of career-connected learning on learner engagement and hope. These findings align with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where each learner skillfully navigates their own career journey.

The New Hampshire Learning Initiative (NHLI) partnered with Gallup to survey a group of New Hampshire learners to better understand the impact of Career Connected Learning (CCL). Specifically, this study sought to measure the interactions between CCL participation, school engagement and hope among middle school and high school learners. CCL is an education strategy aiming to boost learners’ knowledge of potential career options and the skills needed for those careers. CCL bridges CTE and core academic classroom experiences to expand career exploration and work-based learning opportunities.

This sample included 9,600 learners, across grades 5-12 from 28 schools and 13 districts throughout the state of New Hampshire.

In this study, participating in CCL opportunities, as explained in the chart below, was measured by engagement and hope.

  • Engagement indicates the degree to which learners are involved in and are enthusiastic about school
  • Hope refers to the ideas and energy learners have for the future

Findings from the Gallup-NHLI learner poll demonstrate strong relationships between learners’ career-connected learning participation and their hope and engagement. These encouraging results indicate that CCL opportunities may help move the needle in improving learner outcomes.

  • Learners in fifth and sixth grades (37%) are the most likely to be engaged out of all learners in grades 5-12. Starting career exploration early could be more impactful when paired with high levels of engagement. 
  • The vast majority of learners (88%) report participating in at least one career-connected learning opportunity.
  • Career-connected learning opportunities that match learners’ interests are more likely to inform their plans.
  • Those who agree they have a mentor who supports their development are more likely to be hopeful about the future than their peers who do not have such a mentor (40% vs. 25%).
  • Those who agree they have a mentor who supports their development are more likely to be engaged than their peers who do not have such a mentor (37% vs. 16%).
  • This study found a strong relationship between engagement levels and whether a learner says “I know I will graduate from high school”. This connection is the most pronounced among learners who report receiving average or poor grades. For example, among engaged middle schoolers with average or poor grades, 86% of students believe they will graduate from high school, compared to 67% of not-engaged learners. 

What type of Career Connected Learning activities were observed in this study?
CCL learning opportunities occur in various ways within schools or even in the community. Common types of CCL include learning about a job or career in their core academic courses, participating in a career fair or attending a job talk or panel. The graph below demonstrates the frequency of learner participation in various types of CCL activities.



About one in three high school students (35%) — and one in four middle school students (26%) — say CCL opportunities at their school have informed what they plan to do after high school.

These results are encouraging and provide educators and leaders with the data they need to best foster learner success — an important step in closing the gap between the skills learners have and the jobs employers need to fill.  Partnerships between industry and school districts to increase the frequency of CCL could increase knowledge of local and regional opportunities and peak learner interest. For state and local leaders seeking to leverage the power of CCL in CTE programs, consider the following:

    • Conduct climate surveys to understand the current state and availability of CCL-type activities.
    • Investigate the process for creating partnerships with local and regional industry leaders to ensure that CCL opportunities are aligned with career pathways.
    • Assess the current strategies for communicating the CCL that are available to learners and their families.
  • Creating opportunities for learners to engage in CCL during the school day in their core courses mitigates barriers presented by transportation, geography or conflicting school schedules.

Please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center for resources to support connecting the learner experiences in the classroom to careers.

Amy Hodge, Membership and Policy Associate

Research Round-up: Racial Equity in Online and Hybrid CTE Programs

September 25th, 2023

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s blog highlights opportunities for state leaders to consider implications for equity in online and hybrid CTE courses. These findings align with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where each learner accesses high-quality CTE programs without borders.

Data Insights to Improve Racial Equity in Online Postsecondary Career and Technical Education Research and Learning from CTE CoLab, released by Urban Institute’s CTE CoLab, provides insights into racial equity gaps in postsecondary CTE programs, especially those offered partially or fully online. With the continued growth of online learning, this report underscores the importance of understanding how programs can meet student needs, address barriers, and create equitable experiences for students of color. This blog provides definitions of commonly used terms within the report, the methodology of the research, relevant findings for state leaders, and recommendations with targeted action steps by stakeholder groups.

Key findings  

  • Online learning continues to be more popular following the pandemic.  
  • Hybrid courses (a combination of online and face-to-face) in the CTE CoLab have better learner outcomes overall, relative to fully online or face-to-face courses. 
    • Learner outcomes measured in this report include the grade learners received in the course, passing rate, and completion rate.
  • There are racial equity gaps in CTE student outcomes, nationally and at CTE CoLab colleges.  
  • Addressing racial equity gaps in postsecondary CTE requires action at various levels: 
    • Instructors are the first line of support for CTE students.
    • Programs can identify opportunities to support students.
    • Institutions are the next frontier in addressing racial equity gaps in CTE outcomes.

Research Background & Methodology

CTE CoLab first analyzed available national data and existing literature to establish an understanding of the current racial equity gaps among learners in CTE programs. This data was used to develop a preliminary framework (see below). Twelve community and technical college programs from across the country joined the CTE CoLab’s college community of practice through a competitive selection process. Participating programs shared student academic data with the Urban Institute for calendar years 2021 and 2022 (i.e., spring 2021 through fall 2022) and provided insights on the structural gaps within their programs through an ongoing coaching engagement and targeted interviews.

Feedback from instructor surveys documented faculty characteristics, classroom practices, familiarity and comfort with racial equity concepts, and program challenges related to racial equity. In addition to using the research insights from the Urban Institute to support their racial equity work, many participating programs also conducted their own student surveys and focus groups to better understand student experiences.


  • Online education is a learning environment in which technology facilitates interactions between teachers and students who are separated by time or space. It ranges from hybrid/blended instructional approaches to fully online courses and programs. In this brief, we treat the terms “online education,” “online learning,” and “distance education” as interchangeable.
  • An online course is a course that is taught virtually. Online course-taking can mean completing one fully online course during a semester or participating in a fully online program.
  • An online program is a program of study in which all courses are taught virtually.
  • Hybrid/blended instructional approaches combine online and face-to-face courses


Key recommendations

Based on the findings, the following recommendations provide targeted action steps organized by stakeholder group. For additional perspectives, refer to page 24 in the report.

  •  Understand racial equity gaps in student outcomes,
    • Instructors and programs:
      • Examine course and program data to identify student characteristics and differences in outcomes by race and other factors.
      • Understand more about where and why gaps exist by collecting qualitative insights from students through prompts/assignments, interviews, focus groups, surveys, and/or feedback forms.
      • Use data insights to inform course design to improve course outcomes. They can seek to improve their own knowledge of resources and supports that may be valuable to students and share these insights with others.
      • Design policies, practices, and supports around student needs and desires, with the goal of reducing inequities in entry, retention, and completion. 
    • Institutions:
      • Identify ways to increase institutional research capacity and provide training for program leaders and instructors on data collection and usage. Institutional research offices can work with individual programs or instructors to monitor student progress and success in real-time or improve data tools easily accessed by faculty, staff, and administrators.
      • Review student data across programs to see where racial opportunity gaps are most severe.
      • Conduct surveys, focus groups, or feedback forums to understand how to respond to students’ needs across program areas.
  •  Design courses for equity,
    • Instructors and programs:
      • Modify syllabi and curricula to be more culturally responsive. 
    • Institutions:
      • Support faculty by offering equity-centered professional development, and professional development instruction on digital tools for faculty may also be beneficial. Leverage stipends to encourage participation and ensure all faculty members are able to participate.
      • Set a standard for language, concepts, and terminology related to racial equity.
  •  Support equity consciousness at a broader system level, and
    • State policymakers:
      • Make disaggregated education, employment, and earnings data available to programs, institutions, and state stakeholders to track long-term student outcomes. 
    • Other system stakeholders:
      • Review accreditation, licensing, and funding procedures that limit colleges’ flexibility to respond to student, instructor, and program needs. Flexibility has emerged as one of the most important elements of promoting student success.
  •  Conduct further research on effective approaches.
    • Institutions and funders:
      • Support research to identify high-impact strategies for hybrid courses and whether certain elements of CTE programming are better delivered through hybrid learning than fully remote learning, focusing on benefits for different types of learners.

To learn more about resources and strategies to increase equitable access for every CTE learner, visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center

  • Achieving Inclusive CTE Goal-Setting ToolThis goal-setting tool adds a new resource in the data toolbox for state and local CTE and career pathways leaders to assess learner group data in comparison to the broader student population. With this goal-setting tool, leaders can more intentionally plan to recruit, engage, and support underrepresented learner groups to increase access to high-quality CTE programs and career pathways.
  • CTE Without Borders Policy Playbook:This resource, developed in partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, supports state and local leaders in the development of policies and programs that advance the expansion of CTE and work-based learning within and across states.
  • Learner Voice ToolkitThis toolkit provides state and local CTE leaders with actionable resources, guidance and tools to ensure CTE learner voices are elevated and heard for the improvement of CTE policies and practices.

Amy Hodge, Member and Policy Associate

Funding Career Technical Education: Using the 2023 State of CTE Funding Report Resources

September 21st, 2023

Advance CTE’s newly released 2023 State of CTE: An Analysis of State Secondary CTE Funding Models highlights how states and the District of Columbia provide high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) through various secondary CTE funding models and approaches. This blog, the second in a series, describes ways to use the website and supporting resources. 


This resource builds on baseline research conducted in 2014 by RTI International, with the support of Advance CTE, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, and is generously supported by the Walton Family Foundation. Advance CTE is committed to supporting states as they design equitable funding models that direct funding where it is needed most, as described in Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits). Expanding knowledge about funding models and approaches for state secondary CTE is critical for state leaders to provide high-quality CTE for diverse learners. The website consists of an executive summary, research report and three case studies, interactive national funding landscape map and downloadable state-by-state funding table. Below are tips on using and sharing this research with your colleagues and stakeholders, with links to the resources in each header.

Executive Summary

Read the executive summary to get a background of CTE funding foundational basics, a project overview and recommendations for revising and implementing more equitable funding models. This is a great resource for you to pass along to policymakers, legislative staff, state budget staff, partner agencies or local CTE leaders in your state. Consider adding the summary as a pre-reading assignment or an agenda item during your next meeting about state funding.

Research Report and Case Studies

The research report provides a 50-state landscape of state secondary CTE funding, highlights key trends in state funding models, and provides recommendations to advance equitable, learner-centered funding designs. You can learn about some of the ways states made adjustments to their models in the past decade and read examples of how states have designed elements of their funding models to address CTE program quality, access and completion. Case studies from Massachusetts, North Dakota and Texas showcase how three states implement different categorical funding models. 

These case-use examples provide ideas for you to maximize the website and supporting resources in conversations about CTE funding. 

National Funding Landscape Map

The interactive map provides a comparison of secondary CTE models across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Identify your state’s funding model and then compare it to other states with the same funding model. You can also compare your state’s allocation to other states with similar demographics and CTE learner participation numbers. Use the information for benchmarking purposes when discussing – or advocating for – secondary CTE funding in your state. 

State-by-State Funding Table

The state-by-state funding table provides descriptions of each state’s funding approach, allocations from fiscal year 2022 and sources for legislative and regulatory documents. You have the option of downloading the table for additional analysis. Run keyword searches in the descriptions for “enrollment” or “average daily membership” or “ADM” to identify how states structure funding around learner enrollment. Run a keyword search for “grants” to identify which states are using competitive or one-time grants to support secondary CTE. Compare models and approaches from 2012 and 2022 to identify states that have changed their model and/or approach in the last decade. This is helpful information to reference if your state is considering or is in the process of changing its secondary CTE funding model and/or approach. 

ACTION: Bookmark the website for easier future access, watch the explainer video and share this blog with your colleagues. 

Be sure to read the first blog in this series, Funding Career Technical Education: Secondary CTE Funding Basics, which provides a background on CTE funding and describes various models and approaches states use to fund secondary CTE. In the next blog in this series, we will explore how states have incorporated equity elements into their funding models to address CTE program quality, access and completion.

You can read more about funding in the following Advance CTE resources:

Dr. Laura Maldonado, Senior Research Associate

Research Round-up: Micro-credentials as a Lever for Social Mobility in Rural Postsecondary Communities

August 28th, 2023

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s blog highlights the impact that micro-credentials have had on different populations of learners in rural postsecondary institutions. Ensuring that each learner’s skills are counted, valued, and portable supports Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where each learner has access to the means to succeed in the career of their choice.

In their 2022 report, Micro-Credentials for Social Mobility in Rural Postsecondary Communities: A Landscape Report, Digital Promise explored the impact of earning micro-credential attainment on individuals’ transitions into the workforce, promotions, and economic outcomes (e.g., salary increase, prioritizing learners impacted by poverty). Micro-credentials are digital certifications that verify an individual’s competence with a skill or set of skills. They can be earned asynchronously and stacked together to demonstrate readiness for in-demand jobs. Micro-credentialing is growing in popularity as state CTE leaders consider expanding their credential spectrum to include micro-credentials as a cost-effective option to connect learners with certifications for their skills. 

While common themes emerged across the four rural micro-credentialing initiatives evaluated in the report, overall impressions were that micro-credentials can — and in some cases, do — lead to job promotions, higher wages, and an increase in self-confidence for rural learners.

Research Objectives

To better understand their impact, researchers selected four rural micro-credentialing initiatives that are being used to create career pathways for rural learners. The report focused specifically on outcomes for Black, Latinx, and indigenous populations, as well as women. 

A primary objective of this project was to identify existing and emerging instances of micro-credentials in rural industry, education, and training initiatives to inform the field about the value and use of micro-credentials as a tool for equitable economic recovery. Additionally, this research sought to understand how micro-credentials are being leveraged to reduce systemic biases, signal worker readiness to employers and promote social mobility in rural communities.

The four communities featured in this work include:

  • Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative
  • Savannah Technical College/Technical College System of Georgia
  • Tennessee State University’s Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences
  • The University of Maine System.

This report features both qualitative and quantitative data collected through focus groups and individual interviews, program enrollment, retention, credential attainment, and salary outcomes.

Learner Perceptions of Micro-credentials


Overall, micro-credential earners interviewed for this study perceived their experiences favorably and believed that efforts to earn such credentials would result in economic mobility through higher education and income levels. Earners indicated that micro-credentials allowed for more timely feedback and that each credential motivated earners to continue their progression. While stakeholders remain optimistic about the value of micro-credentials, many earners are still unsure of how earning micro-credentials may or may not impact their long-term employment trajectories.


Program Design Considerations

As a result of their analysis, five themes emerged across the micro-credential sites:

  1. Partnerships
    • All initiatives emphasize a need for developing regional, sustainable partnerships across sectors and increasing efforts to engage communities of color. Successful initiatives included universities, adult education, prison education, and reentry programs and employers. 
    • State-level example: In Tennessee, several organizations and networks are working to promote online learning and micro-credentialing for early childhood education professionals across the state.
  2. Employer Recognition
    • Program administrators and learners want to ensure that prospective employers recognize and value skills demonstrated through micro-credentials. 
    • State-level example: In Georgia, the way that program leaders build relationships with employers ensures a quick transition into the workforce for those completing the 8-week program to earn their micro-credentials.
  3. Program Sustainability
    • As the three university-based pilots are in the process of scaling up into more robust statewide programs, efforts to maintain programming were thought to depend on several factors:
      • A desire for more robust data collection methods and data interoperability across multiple institutions. 
      • Administrators also recognized the need to improve messaging to potential learners, employers, and funders about the value of micro-credentials.
  4. Program Appeal/ Feasibility
    • Across all initiatives, program appeal was influenced by affiliations with the respective educational institutions. Perceived use and value of micro-credentials were the most important reasons for motivation for program developers and earners. 
    • State-level example: In Kentucky, some teachers earning micro-credentials were able to increase their rank and wages.
  5. Potential for Learner/ Higher Education Attainment
    • An ability to earn new skills, obtain credit for prior knowledge, and access varied content were significant factors of the perceived value of micro-credentials among rural learners. Earners perceive micro-credentials as beneficial to include on resumes given that they may set them apart from other candidates. 
    • State-level example: In Maine, earners, which included women in state correctional facilities, sought to ensure that micro-credentials were readily transferable to college credit.

Additional Resources

To learn more about stackable credentials, visit the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate 

Research Round-up: Leveraging Data for Equitable Education and Workforce Alignment

July 26th, 2023

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s blog highlights the different data sources that can be leveraged to identify and address any inequities that are present in postsecondary CTE programs. These findings align with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where each learner feels welcomed and has the means to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem.

Credential Engines’ Equity Advisory Council (EAC) report, and the subsequent recommendations, present a tiered approach for using data to ensure that CTE programs are equitable for all learners.


The primary questions that this report sought to address were twofold:

  • What are the data points that students and workers need to know–and that providers should make public–in order to make their most informed decisions about whether a program and credential can lead to an equitable outcome for them? 
  • Which data use principles should be incorporated into counseling, guidance, navigation and pathway tools and services to ensure that data are the most effective for students and workers to achieve their most equitable outcomes?

This report groups data into three tiers based on the complexity level to analyze or publish the data.

  • Tier 1: These are data points that all providers should be able to analyze and publish now.
    • EX: Compliance data, enrollment, completion, etc.
  • Tier 2: These are data points that all providers should be actively working on being able to analyze and publish.
    • EX: Credential transparency, financial return on investment, placement information, etc.
  • Tier 3: These are data points that point to where the field is headed, and providers should be assessing how to build capacity to analyze and publish them.
    • EX: Transfer and credit mobility, support and tutoring services, labor market alignment of the credentials that learners are earning, etc.

These “critical equity data points” are important to track in order to advance understanding and action about equitable pathways, transfer and recognition of learning. While each consecutive tier may require more in-depth analysis, this work will be critical in building a complete understanding of the learner experience and learner outcomes in these pathways.


In their report, the EAC also identified key principles to help maintain equitable data practices. These included: 

  1. Adopt data practices to foster an environment where outcomes are improved for every learner
  2. Disaggregate data (such as program’s earnings and employment outcomes) through publically available channels
  3. Emphasize credentials of value that are relevant for learners
  4. Consider learner voice and need when designing tools to ensure data is accessible and inclusive
  5. Provide professional development for those interacting with the data, and leveraging the value of linked open data


These principles rely on a statewide commitment (inclusive of workforce, industry, educational institutions, and government leadership) to making data accessible to ensure that every learner has the opportunity and information required to make the best decision about their career trajectory.

Advance CTE’s Career Readiness Data Quality and Use Policy Benchmark Tool also supports state leaders’ use of accurate, timely, and disaggregated data to investigate barriers to access and take action to ensure equity, access and success for historically marginalized learners.

To access additional resources on data quality and use, please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Membership & Policy Associate