Posts Tagged ‘postsecondary’

Advance CTE 2024 Spring Meeting Sponsor Blog – Gold Sponsor American Student Alliance | Using CTE to Create Innovative Career Exploration Programs That Prepare All Learners for Their Futures

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

The views, opinions, services and products shared in this post are solely for educational purposes and do not imply agreement or endorsement by Advance CTE, nor discrimination against similar brands, products or services not mentioned.

In recent years, middle school career exploration has gained traction as a foundational element of Career Technical Education (CTE). As many State CTE Directors and leaders know, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V), signed into law in July 2018, for the first time permitted Perkins funding to be used on career exploration programming as early as fifth grade. Here are four strategic actions that states can take to expand and enhance career exploration programs that prepare learners for postsecondary education and career success, based on a recent nationwide study of middle school career exploration programs, commissioned by American Student Assistance® (ASA).

Clearly define middle school career exploration and ensure a unified definition is adopted across relevant agencies and partners, including K-12, postsecondary, workforce, and relevant community-based organizations. A quality definition clearly defines middle school career exploration as a strategy that will help learners build their understanding of career interests and expand awareness and understanding of career opportunities, including through hands-on, applied experiences. 

Once a clear definition is established, coordinate related and supporting efforts across state leadership, including departments driving academics and instruction, school counseling, CTE, and workforce training. Establish routines for collaboration between programmatic leaders who should be working together to support an overall vision for learner success with elements from each of their programs.

Integrate career exploration into your accountability and data collection systems. The last two years of high school are insufficient for dramatically increasing learners’ readiness for postsecondary and career opportunities. States can leverage program quality indicators in Perkins V and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plans to formally set measurable goals for middle school career exploration, integrating them into existing college and career readiness (CCR) targets. States can also utilize their data collection systems to not only identify middle school career exploration participants and determine their positive placement within high school CTE programs, but also to ensure the quality of programming through evaluations or learner-based software platforms.

The report also highlights seven states that have distinguished themselves by instituting formal accountability mechanisms to influence district and school focus on meaningful career exploration. Although federal changes made through the reauthorization of ESSA allowed states to exercise flexibility in the indicators used to assess districts and schools, only two states—Pennsylvania and Georgia—have used this flexibility to include career exploration as a component in their federal accountability systems. Five additional states—Missouri, Kansas, Utah, South Carolina, and Michigan—have incorporated middle school career exploration into their state accountability mechanisms to assess the quality of delivery of career advisement services or activities.

Assess and address state policies that have the potential to limit learners’ ability to access different career exploration opportunities, including restricting CTE course enrollment by grade level or grade point average minimums. 

It’s important to provide innovative and comprehensive career exploration that includes CTE. Only 33 states facilitate exploration via a course or set of courses that can serve as an on-ramp to a CTE pathway, according to ASA’s report. In contrast, the study highlights Utah’s College & Career Awareness Program, which requires a course that enables learners in grades 7-8 to explore high school, college, and career options based on individual interests, abilities, and skills. A team of CTE teachers, school counselors, and work-based learning coordinators teach the course and provide instruction in career development. 

This well-rounded, effective approach equips all learners with the information they’ll need to understand their options and make informed, confident decisions about their futures.

Julie Lammers is Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility at American Student Assistance® (ASA), a national nonprofit changing the way kids learn about careers and prepare for their futures. Julie leads ASA’s philanthropic strategy as well as ASA’s advocacy efforts on both the federal and state level. Julie has been at ASA since March 2010.

By Layla Alagic in Advance CTE Spring Meeting
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Legislative Update: House Elects New Speaker

Thursday, October 26th, 2023

After weeks without a leader, lawmakers in the House elected Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) to be the next Speaker of the House. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published new postsecondary regulations. 

Rep. Mike Johnson Elected Speaker of the House

After over three weeks without a leader, the House elected a new Speaker on Wednesday — Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). Over the last several weeks a slew of earlier candidates failed to garner the necessary support for this role, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), and most recently, Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN). Following these failed candidacies, House Republicans reconvened late Tuesday night this week to conduct another informal straw poll to determine a new candidate for the Speakership. After winnowing a field of eight declared candidates, Johnson ultimately prevailed over Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) by a margin of 128-29. The next day, acting Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC) reconvened the chamber to vote for a new Speaker where Johnson prevailed over current Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) by a margin of 220-209.

Speaker Johnson was first elected to Congress in 2016 and has served most recently on the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. He has also Chaired the Republican Study Committee and was Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference prior to his ascent to the Speakership. Notably for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community, Johnson has been a member of the House CTE Caucus. However, not much else is known about Speaker Johnson’s wider education or workforce development priorities. In the lead up to his candidacy, he has committed to an aggressive timeline to advance federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) spending bills over the next few weeks and months ahead. 

With the election of a new Speaker, lawmakers must now turn to a growing agenda that must be addressed this fall. This work includes determining a pathway forward on FY24 funding, with a new deadline of November 17 fast approaching. As the House determines its next steps, Advance CTE will continue to engage with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure that the funding needs of the CTE community are met as this process continues to take shape. 

ED Publishes New Postsecondary Regulations

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published final regulations regarding oversight and accountability for postsecondary institutions. The final rules package includes components related to institutional financial responsibilities, related administrative capacity, certification procedures, and changes to ability to benefit requirements – efforts aimed at afforded postsecondary access to learners who have not yet attained a high school diploma or equivalency. Advance CTE provided comment during the initial publication of these rules and is continuing to analyze them for implications for the wider CTE community. More information on the rules package can be found in this press release

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Layla Alagic in Public Policy
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ECMCF Fellow Feature: Shelsi Barber-Carter

Thursday, August 31st, 2023

In September 2022, Advance CTE and ECMC Foundation announced the second cohort of The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education (CTE) Leaders Fellowship at Advance CTE—Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. The Advance CTE — ECMCF Fellows include representation across multiple demographic categories reflecting the Fellowship’s goal of intentionally building a postsecondary leadership pipeline for underserved populations in Career Technical Education (CTE) that closes racial representation gaps and removes equity barriers to postsecondary leadership advancement. 

This month, we’re excited to highlight two members of Advance-CTE’s second cohort of Postsecondary State CTE Leaders Fellows. In our interview with ECMCF Fellow Shelsi Barber-Carter (AR), she shared how participating in the Fellowship helped her gain confidence leveraging learner data to inform policies that shape CTE programs across the state.

Tell me more about your journey to the Fellowship.

My journey to the fellowship is the result of networking and being strongly connected to like-minded individuals that play major roles in CTE. As an alumnus of the ACTE Next Level Fellowship, I found myself participating in activities and events that were held or affiliated with Advance CTE. As I attended those events, I heard so many great things about what Advance CTE was doing and how the organization provides greater opportunities for upcoming leaders in Career and Technical Education. With that in mind, I was really drawn to Advance CTE’s work, especially since it aligns so closely with my passion for improving outcomes for learners in CTE programs. As a former resident of rural Louisiana, I know that educational opportunities can be limited based on where you grow up; so, the way Advance CTE structures its approach to support states in providing access to high-quality CTE programming for every learner, regardless of their background, really spoke to me. During the time of my promotion to Louisiana Community Technical College System, my supervisor encouraged me to apply, especially since I was working more in the area of DEI at the time. 

I will say, since I have been a part of the fellowship, Dr. Johnson and my mentor Dr. Shorter-Gooden have been so supportive in helping me to understand where I can have the greatest impact in my community without directly serving in a postsecondary role. They rock!

What skills or areas have you experienced the most growth in the program?

I’ve experienced a lot of growth in my skills around strategic planning and my confidence in working hands-on with data. I’m excited to be able to say that I’m truly data-driven, and I’ve been able to effectively leverage data in my presentations about the impact that poverty has on learners. To add, I believe the skills I have developed through the Fellowship are going to help me increase ways on how to bring about awareness and influence when supporting every learner in becoming successful citizens, including those from underserved communities.

Have you been tapped for new or more advanced roles within your organization as a result of your experience in the Fellowship?

Yes, I was recently promoted to the CTE Special Project and Jobs for Arkansas’s Graduates (JAG) Coordinator for the state of Arkansas. In this role, I’m responsible for overseeing all secondary and post-secondary JAG and college success programs. I have over 600 students on the secondary side and 12 postsecondary institutions that I oversee through the College Success program. I strongly believe participating in the Fellowship helped me become more comfortable in working in a CTE space while embracing a role that calls for me to articulate my knowledge and understanding of learner’s data as it relates to the policies and guidance that I am providing to my team. I also believe my experience in working with Perkins has helped me excel in this role.

How has your experience in the fellowship helped you explore new spaces or positions in postsecondary state CTE leadership? 

With my experience in working with federal grants (Perkins and TRIO) and building partnering relationships with individuals from business and industry, I strongly believe the fellowship has allowed me the chance to openly connect and engage great leaders; as well as maintain important conversations about CTE with the decision makers in that space.  For example, I recently met with one of our state higher education leaders and felt fully equipped to have that conversation. When I speak with someone, I have a purpose in mind. I have a goal in mind. And I think Advanced CTE really prepared me for that.

How has the Fellowship expanded your network? 

Within the cohort alone- I’ve been able to network and bounce ideas off others to get a lot of great ideas about how to approach the work. Their perspectives have been invaluable, and I’ve been able to leverage this confidence and knowledge especially when I am speaking with state leaders about relative topics and issues that focus on the “learners’ voice in rural communities”. 

Have you discovered new opportunities for what a role in postsecondary CTE could look like/ the responsibilities of such a position?

I would love to step into a role where I’m working in adult education and workforce. I’ve built a lot of knowledge through my work with secondary and postsecondary education under Perkins, so I believe I am better prepared now to speak to those areas; as well as assist and provide a service that will really show the type of work that I do. 

A lot of the programs that I oversee include work-based learning, career development, internships, and apprenticeship programs. We connect learners with scholarships and job placements, so I am confident that there is a natural fit for me to step into a role on the workforce side of these programs.

If you have any questions, contact Shelsi Barber-Carter by email at shelsibarber@gmail.com 

By Layla Alagic in Achieving Equitable and Inclusive CTE
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ECMCF Fellow Feature: Nancy Ligus

Thursday, June 29th, 2023

In September 2022, Advance CTE and ECMC Foundation announced the second cohort of The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education (CTE) Leaders Fellowship at Advance CTE—Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. The Advance CTE — ECMCF Fellows include representation across multiple demographic categories reflecting the Fellowship’s goal of intentionally building a postsecondary leadership pipeline for underserved populations in Career Technical Education (CTE) that closes racial representation gaps and removes equity barriers to postsecondary leadership advancement. This month, we’re excited to highlight two members of Advance-CTE’s second cohort of Postsecondary State CTE Leaders Fellows. ECMCF Fellow Nancy Ligus (WV) is passionate about finding proactive and equity-focused solutions to reverse the current education and workforce trends in the state.

Tell me more about your journey to the Fellowship.

I learned of the Advance CTE Fellowship through a colleague at the West Virginia Community & Technical College System last summer. We’d both previously attended one of Dr. Johnson’s information sessions to learn more about the content of the Fellowship and how participating would give us insight and the tools needed to address the diversity and equity challenges we face in post-secondary education in WV. In my role as Director of Workforce and Economic Development for the WV CTCS, I was connected to all nine WV Community Colleges and their efforts in developing training and meeting the workforce needs in their regions. Although I recognized there were gaps in access and inclusion to Career and Technical Education throughout the state, I hadn’t been involved in any initiatives to address the deeper racial inequities and barriers to career pathways. When I transitioned to my current leadership role at Pierpont Community College in north central WV, I realized that I needed the right tools to address these challenges. I saw the Fellowship as a way that I could gain those skills, knowledge, and significantly greater understanding that I could put into action.

What skills or areas have you experienced the most growth in the program?

Through my experience in the Fellowship, I’ve grown my understanding of how systemic policies play a huge role in creating and perpetuating barriers of access to high-quality CTE programs for marginalized populations. Our state has the lowest labor participation rate, low education attainment, and generally a perception of poor educational performance and outcomes, but my new knowledge has allowed me to feel more confident sharing my ideas with other workforce development leaders and collaborating on proactive approaches to reverse these trends.

As I oversee the workforce programs at my college and collaborate on career pathways, I look at each one with a new lens. I feel empowered to anticipate some of the challenges and understand how to overcome them to create more possibilities for people. I’m also bringing what I’ve learned to my staff and other leaders in my college as we are moving out of a transitional period since the pandemic. It seems so timely; we’re sort of starting over to recapture our community’s awareness of what the college’s role is within our region, and it’s a good time to incorporate policies to reflect our commitment to equity.

Have you been tapped for new or more advanced roles within your organization as a result of your experience in the Fellowship? 

While I currently only represent one region in WV, I’ve been invited to participate in several state-wide initiatives which will be very important to the state’s future workforce and economic development. When I’ve had the opportunity, I connect relevant learnings and resources from Advance CTE and the Fellowship to inform my work. I feel like these insights are appreciated and I feel proud to be the person introducing others to innovative ideas from our workshop speakers and discussions. 

One of my objectives for participating in the Fellowship was to pass on my knowledge to future potential leaders and mentor others to continue this important work. That’s certainly been the case at Pierpont Community & Technical College, where I am currently working with the academic leadership to develop more career pathways and create strategies for addressing equity gaps. I serve on several grant committees, and having this experience has given me more appreciation for incorporating my Fellowship-based understanding of racial equity into the planning and implementation of funding.

How has your experience in the fellowship helped you explore new spaces or positions in postsecondary state CTE leadership?

I’ve always been the type of person to seek out opportunities to take my experience and knowledge to a new level. Since participating in the Fellowship, I feel I’m gaining a whole new skill set to add to my range of knowledge in the workforce development space. In my previous position at the WV CTCS, my team and I worked hard to advocate for high-quality CTE programs. While I wasn’t always able to see this labor come to fruition, I feel more confident that I could bring both my post-secondary leadership roles together; knowing what it takes for a community college to put an effective training program together at ground level, with the big-picture knowledge and experience driving and supporting the effort. If I could create my own position, it would be something like Director of Workforce Projects or a role that allows me to serve in a DEI advisory capacity to develop equity-minded practices and policies across the college system and lead a council with representation from each college to share ideas and challenges that may be unique to their area of service.

How has the Fellowship expanded your network?

As a member and Fellow, I am grateful for the wide breadth of the Advance CTE network and resource access. Not only are the resources provided to us through the workshops and speakers, etc. incredibly informative, but the Fellows themselves are exceptional leaders and resources in their own right!  This exposure has revealed where there are still many opportunities for growth in postsecondary education. Seeing and hearing what other colleges are doing to address these challenges through this network, especially through the lens of racial equity, reinforces to me that changes need to be implemented now. 

To connect with Nancy, email nancyl.ligus@gmail.com.

 

By Layla Alagic in Achieving Equitable and Inclusive CTE
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ECMCF Fellow Feature: Dr. Crystal Gardner

Tuesday, June 20th, 2023

In September 2022, Advance CTE and ECMC Foundation announced the second cohort of The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education (CTE) Leaders Fellowship at Advance CTE—Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. The Advance CTE — ECMCF Fellows include representation across multiple demographic categories reflecting the Fellowship’s goal of intentionally building a postsecondary leadership pipeline for underserved populations in Career Technical Education (CTE)  that closes racial representation gaps and removes equity barriers to postsecondary leadership advancement. For this blog in the ECMCF Fellow Feature series, we interviewed  ECMCF Fellow Dr. Crystal Gardner (TX) who entered the Fellowship with experience spanning PK-12, higher education and adult education.

Dr. Crystal Gardner currently serves as the Instructional Supervisor for the Houston Community College (HCC) Alternative Teacher Certification Program (ATCP). In this role, she oversees instructional operations, program development, quality control, and compliance management. Joining the Fellowship was an exciting opportunity to fully immerse herself in the world of career and technical education (CTE) through equity-aligned learning and real-world practicum.

She was first exposed to the world of workforce development through her work in ATCP. This proximity allowed her to work in professional learning communities and connect with other workforce stakeholders. The Fellowship was recommended to her by a colleague who knew about her previous experience and passion for program outcomes.

“My goal is to pull others up through my work. Whether my role is in grant writing, administration or as an educator, my goal is always to prepare and provide high-quality educators, high-quality employees, and high-quality people.”

Dr. Gardner’s work in institution improvement has always been data-driven. She has experience using data to turn around PK-12 campuses and the successful re-accreditation of the Alternative Teacher Certification program at HCC upon its initial re-accreditation audit. As a Fellow, she’s eager for the opportunity to further develop her knowledge and skills around using CTE datasets and Perkins accountability to close gaps in the programs she oversees. One of her long-term goals is to expand alternative certification programs to include CTE educator preparation to increase the availability of high-quality CTE instructors in Houston.

“This Fellowship has given me the skills to analyze our institutional data through an equity lens and identify those areas of need. I’m able to narrow in on key areas like sustainability and retention in an impactful way.”

Dr. Gardner’s role has shifted in exciting ways as she’s been tapped to take on additional projects and speaking engagements. She has had the opportunity to present on accountability at numerous conferences, including the Texas Association of CTE (TACTE) and the Learning Resources Network (LERN) conferences. Dr. Gardner is also proud of the work that she’s led around expanding the eligibility of Veterans Benefit to cover clock hour programs for Veterans wishing to pursue Alternative Teacher Certification at HCC, in addition to completing the process of garnering the approval of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the Alternative Teacher Certification CE Certificate, beginning Fall 2023.

“Participating in the Fellowship has increased the quality and capacity of my professional network exponentially. I feel renewed and invigorated finding myself surrounded by a group of people of such caliber and similar-minded passion for moving the needle to improve systems.”

If you have any questions, contact Dr. Crystal Gardner by email at crystal.gardner@hccs.edu 

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

By Jodi Langellotti in Achieving Equitable and Inclusive CTE
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Legislative Update: FY24 Funding Continues to Take Shape

Friday, June 16th, 2023

This week, congressional leaders continued to look ahead to next steps for the 2024 federal budget and appropriations process ahead of important deadlines this fall and early next year. Elsewhere, lawmakers in the House examined innovative approaches to postsecondary education.

House Republicans Propose Significant Cuts to Domestic Spending

After months of on-and-off again negotiations, congressional leaders and President Biden recently reached a deal to suspend the debt ceiling and avert a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt obligations. The agreement, known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), extends the nation’s borrowing authority for the next two years and, importantly for the Career and Technical Education (CTE) community, establishes new spending caps for that same period of time for federal fiscal years 2024 (FY24) and 2025 (FY25). The FRA was signed into law by President Biden on June 3, following intense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans. Upon the release of the agreement, House Republican leadership touted the FRA saying, in part, “The Fiscal Responsibility Act does what is responsible for our children, what is possible in divided government, and what is required by our principles and promises.”

More recently, however, House Republicans have signaled that they intend to move forward with FY24 spending bills that do not conform to the spending cap requirements contained in the FRA. In a recent development earlier this week, the top House Republican appropriator, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), announced that she plans to move forward with a series of spending bills that reduce federal spending to FY22 levels, rather than FY23 as required by the FRA. Recent press reports have indicated that the committee is planning to advance spending legislation for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education spending bill, where the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (Perkins V) and other education programs derive funding from. The bill could potentially include an up to $60 billion cut to funding for this portion of the federal budget—a nearly one-third reduction in funding over current levels of investment.

In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) have indicated that they plan to move forward with FY24 spending proposals in the coming weeks that do conform to the FRA. This puts Congress on a likely path towards another future disagreement over federal spending later this fall, with the chambers potentially moving forward with spending proposals that are dramatically different. This will have the practical effect of making reconciling the differences between the chambers’ proposals even more challenging ahead of the start of FY24, set to begin on October 1. As a reminder, a mandatory, across-the-board sequester cut of one percent to all federal spending would be applied should Congress not reach agreement on full-year FY24 funding  by January 1 of next year. As these efforts continue, Advance CTE will be closely monitoring these developments and engaging with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure the funding needs of the CTE community are realized as part of this ongoing budget and appropriations process for FY24. 

House Examines Postsecondary Innovation

On Wednesday, June 14, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing titled “Postsecondary Innovation: Preparing Students for Tomorrow’s Opportunities.” The hearing focused on the need to fundamentally rethink many aspects of postsecondary education, with witnesses and lawmakers discussing at length the important role career development and planning has both before, during, and after postsecondary experiences to ensure learner success. In addition, the importance of dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities was highlighted extensively during the hearing as was the need to fully invest earlier on in the educational continuum—a key strategy emphasized during the hearing to prepare students earlier on for their future endeavors. A webcast archive of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Layla Alagic in Public Policy
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Research Roundup: Prior Learning Assessment as a Strategy for Upskilling Learners

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-based Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s blog highlights prior learning assessment as a strategy for upskilling learners by offering college credit for previous academic and professional experiences which aligns with CTE Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education where each learner’s skills are counted, valued, and portable.

Prior learning assessment (PLA) is a strategy being utilized by postsecondary institutions to increase enrollment and retention of learners in their CTE programs. PLA, which is similar in design and implementation to credit for prior learning (CPL) offers benefits for both learners and institutions. These programs are effective options for adult learners that have work or academic experience but lack the credentials and the information they need to upskill to complete a degree. 

Methods of PLA include:

The PLA Boost Report

The PLA Boost, released in 2020, was collaboratively produced by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). This study examined the use and impact of prior learning assessment (PLA) on adult outcomes using enrollment, credit-earning and degree-earning data from 72 postsecondary institutions of more than 465,000 learners of all ages, focusing in particular on more than 232,000 adult learners (defined as learners age 25 and older) from 69 of the participating institutions that were able to provide the most detailed data on PLA credit-earning.

Findings: The shared benefits of PLA to learners and institutions

When postsecondary institutions acknowledge previous education and training through PLA, it removes a barrier to returning to the classroom for adult learners by decreasing the cost of earning their degree. 

Based on the report’s findings, learners can save money by taking advantage of PLA: The adult students in this sample saved an estimated average of $1,481 at two-year public institutions, $3,794 at four-year publics, $10,220 at four-year privates, and $6,090 at for-profits when considering the lower costs of PLA compared to course tuition.

In addition to saving money, PLA allows the learner to save time and reportedly, increases feelings of motivation and validation. PLA was strongly associated with higher rates of credential completion for adult learners. The 24,512 adult students who earned PLA credits had a credential completion rate of 49 percent over the seven-and-a-half-year observation period, compared to 27 percent among adult students with no PLA credits.

Adult students with PLA were more likely to persist and continue to complete their degree at their participating institution. Adult students with PLA earned an average of 17.6 more credits from institutional courses compared to adult students without PLA.

Study Limitations 

The sample was overly representative of predominantly online institutions, some of the results (most notably for the sector and for race/ethnicity groups) were influenced by a handful of large institutions or by institutions where key student groups were concentrated, and there were too few students in some of the race categories (Native Hawai‘ian/Other Pacific Islander and American Indian/ Alaska Native). While this study was able to demonstrate the benefits of PLA,  the sample of adult learners was relatively small. Forty percent of the participating institutions reported participation rates of under three percent of adult learners with PLA. Disaggregating this data also revealed low participation rates for female, low-income and Black adult learners compared to other subgroups. It is worth noting that, despite variation in the extent, all learner subgroups experienced credential boosts from PLA.

Recommendations and Additional Resources

Now is the time to invest in PLA. PLA offers a solution for increasing credential attainment by extending an opportunity for adult learners to upskill and/or return to complete their degrees. The data shows us that access to PLA is not equal across adult learner groups. In order to provide access for all adult learners institutions should critique their data to better identify the gaps in access and to leverage the full potential of these programs.

To learn more about strategies to increase participation in PLA and CPL, check out the Credit for Prior Learning Messaging Toolkit. This toolkit provides effective messages targeted to key audiences and strategies for dissemination to increase participation in Credit for Prior Learning among adult learners who are pursuing career pathways and CTE programs of study that lead to jobs in in-demand fields. 

For state and local CTE leaders looking to increase their data literacy, Advance CTE’s Train the Trainer: Opportunity Gap Analysis Workshop focuses on the skills that leaders need to investigate outcome gaps and perform root cause analysis. These sessions will provide the necessary training and resources to support state leaders in addressing gaps in access to high-quality CTE. 

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

By Jodi Langellotti in Research
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Credit for Prior Learning: Q&A with CCV’s Melissa DeBlois on the success of the Prior Learning Assessment Programs.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

Earlier this month, Advance CTE released a Credit for Prior Learning Messaging Toolkit in partnership with Education Strategy Group and the New Skills ready network. This toolkit provides guidance and templates to help state leaders develop key messages that engage and communicate the value and use of Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) to adult learners, postsecondary faculty and staff and employers. 

This post interviews Community College of Vermont’s Director of Prior Learning Assessment, Melissa DeBlois for insights on the need for this resource and how communicating CPL is realized at the institution and learner level.

In our conversation, Melissa shared how CCV’s simple, yet effective strategies have been deployed to empower and support adult learners in returning to the classroom to complete their degrees.

When and why was the Office of Prior Learning Assessment established? 

The Office of Prior Learning Assessment was established in 1975 in response to the need for a formalized process that would reconnect adult learners by awarding postsecondary credits for previous academic or work-based experiences. 

Who do you consider to be your core audience for communications regarding Prior Learning Assessment / Credit for Prior Learning (PLA/CPL)?

Our primary audiences are students and employers. We find that students aged 25 and up and those with military connections are particularly successful in PLA/CPL because they often already have some learning that could be documented through the PLA/CPL process.

While employers are eager for resources to help upskill their employees, I’ve also had senior leadership approach me after leading a session to ask about whether PLA could help them complete their degrees. We foster a culture where these tools and resources are open and available without shame or judgment for anyone to take advantage of.

Which communication strategies would you consider to be exceptionally high-impact?

Social media and digital marketing are huge for us. Our marketing department utilizes data to determine which platforms have the greatest impact to get information in front of our audiences. We developed some short, pathway-specific videos that feature stories of program alumni. Sharing personal perspectives has been incredibly effective for connecting with our adult population as they are able to see themselves in these campaigns and it encourages them to dream about where they could go with their learning.

Our admissions department sends automatic messages to everyone who applies. Our software has the capability to send texts and emails, but our method depends entirely on the contact information that the learner has provided to us. On the day they apply, they receive a message from me asking if they have an interest in saving time and money on their path to a degree, and it has been a pretty effective way to target folks. 

Webinars have also been effective communication tools for reaching our audiences. Now that people are more familiar with Zoom, they have the opportunity to access this information in a way that they weren’t able to before.

Are strategies differentiated based on the PLA program/initiative or target audience?

In December 2020, we developed new competency-based PLA options specific to early childhood education. We were able to generate a mailing list of all registered childcare centers in the state and sent out informational fliers and contact cards to post in their break rooms. While this approach was low-tech, it specifically catered to the individuals working at the center by placing our fliers on staff bulletin boards in break rooms or common spaces they’d be seen every day.

How have your strategies changed over time?

We collect data from those who enroll and those who attend our informational sessions. We ask them about their takeaways from the session to better understand what the most relevant pieces of information were for them. I find that there are a lot more folks who are interested in learning a little bit more before they’re actually ready to devote the time and energy to enroll in courses. We’ve seen that they are exploring well in advance, and it can often take them months or sometimes years to follow through while they make arrangements to fit college into their already full lives. 

Were there additional surprises or pushback to this program that your team wasn’t anticipating? If so, how did you mitigate these?

PLA is complicated, and I’ve seen students struggle when they try to navigate it on their own.  Our adult learners do not want to be on hold, but being short-staffed means that our capacity to serve learners is a challenge. This population doesn’t want to be bounced around from office to office. They want to talk to one person to help them figure out what they need to do and get started. We’ve addressed this by prioritizing in-person sessions where I can interact in real-time and answer their questions. We wrote PLA into CCV’s strategic plan, so expanding opportunities for our adult learners are included in all of our goal-setting as it’s part of the DNA of our institution. 

Another challenge in PLA/CPL is the acceptance and transferability of credits.  I’m hopeful that more institutions will be open to prior learning assessed credit because they need to in order to stay afloat. They need to recognize that adult learners come with experiential learning with a college credit value, and I think we’re moving in that direction.

Finally, as a community college, we don’t have a lot of funding available so we need to get creative about how to fund these initiatives, not on the backs of tuition dollars for our students. 

What recommendations do you have for other states seeking to increase engagement and improve communication around CPL?

I have three pieces of advice: 

What is the future of credit for prior learning in Vermont?

We’ve seen a lot of promise in competency-based pathways. We’ve broken down courses into modularized content that will allow folks to test out and complete assignments on their own without having to sit through an entire class. The response has been positive, and we’ve developed 12 competency-based pathways that are very popular for meeting the needs of learners at all kinds of places in their career paths. 

Visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Research Center for additional resources about credit for prior learning, including the Embedding Credit for Prior Learning in Career Pathways Policy Benchmark Tool and the newly released Credit for Prior Learning Messaging Toolkit.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

Melissa DeBlois is the director of the Office of Prior Learning Assessment and a member of the Prior Learning Assessment Network. In her role, Melissa coordinates and provides outreach efforts, hires faculty for portfolio reviews, course challenges, and ETES program reviews, trains faculty to teach portfolio courses, provides information to a variety of audiences via presentations, documentation, videos and webinars, and facilitates portfolio reviews. She spent the first 18 years of her career at the Community College of Vermont. Before working in prior learning assessment, she was a coordinator of academic services for the CCV-Burlington, then CCV-Winooski, academic teams. She has reviewed and developed computer degree programs on the Technology Curriculum Committee for the last 15 years. Melissa holds a bachelor of arts from St. Lawrence University and a master of education with a focus in technology integration from St. Michael’s College.

By Jodi Langellotti in Publications, Uncategorized
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Advance CTE’s National Summit Celebrates Progress Enhancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality

Monday, January 9th, 2023

Last month, Advance CTE hosted the National Summit on Advancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality & Use (Summit). The convening was the capstone of a two-year initiative, supported by ECMC Foundation, to support leaders in five states in cultivating postsecondary data ecosystems that assist institutions in offering career pathways that meet learner interests and are aligned to good careers. This post shares some of the main takeaways and themes from the Summit.

Individuals from twenty states and territories, as well as national partner organizations, attended the Summit to hear lessons learned from the Advancing Postsecondary C Data Quality & Use Initiative (PDI), explore promising practices to improve the quality and use of postsecondary CTE data and discuss strategies to sustain the work into the future.

The agenda of the Summit followed the unique approaches the PDI grantees took to improve postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) data quality and use, from aligning non-credit courses to credit, improving data visualizations and creating new data elements to capture work-based learning or learners’ needs. 

The Summit also celebrated high-quality data system achievements outside of the PDI cohort. The first plenary featured a panel of Anna Fontus, Program Officer, ECMC Foundation; Su Jin Jez, Executive Director, California Competes; and Paige Kowalski, Executive Vice President, Data Quality Campaign. The panelists spoke on effective strategies to build support for  California’s P20 Cradle-to-Career Data System, including:

Overall, the panelists made clear that extensive planning and legislation enabled the state’s implementation to go relatively smoothly. 

The second plenary session was delivered by Delaware’s State CTE Director, Jonathan Wickert. Jon spoke to the change management that enabled major shifts in the state’s postsecondary CTE data practices and system. At the center, Delaware prioritized building buy-in among staff and institution-level leaders and practitioners through many rounds of listening and feedback sessions. The state put itself in the seat of convener and let its stakeholders guide the principles and questions that would be addressed by new data routines and system requirements. This work resulted in a shared mission statement, principles and research agenda that ensures stakeholders and users needs are met by data system improvements. 

Over the course of the two-day convening, common themes emerged across the plenary, concurrent and interactive sessions:

Through the PDI, Advance CTE has worked with the Alabama Community College System, Delaware Department of Education, University of the District of Columbia Community College, Florida Department of Education and Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission to develop and implement comprehensive action plans to improve the quality and use of postsecondary CTE data. 

Learn more about the PDI grantees’ work and lessons learned through the initiative’s series of mini briefs here

Candace Williams, Data & Research Manager 

By Jodi Langellotti in Uncategorized
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New Mini-Brief Series Highlights Progress Towards Cohesive, Learner-Centered Postsecondary Data Systems in Five States

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Two years ago, Advance CTE launched the Advancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality Initiative (PDI), supported by ECMC Foundation. Through the initiative, five grantees have received funding, technical assistance and access to a national peer learning network to:

1) Examine critical problems of practice and;

2) Implement innovative solutions to improve the quality, and use of postsecondary CTE data.

Grantee states and agencies include the: Alabama Community College System (ACCS); Delaware Department of Education; University of the District of Columbia Community College; Florida Department of Education, and; Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

By supporting states to improve their postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) data quality and use, Advance CTE is attending to a foundational commitment – actionable, transparent and trustworthy data – in Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits). Each of the five foundational commitments are critical to states’ abilities to enact the Vision principles. Actionable, transparent and trustworthy data underlies a coordinated, learner-centered career preparation ecosystem. 

About the Briefs

In the coming months, Advance CTE will release a series of four briefs to share strategies put in place by the PDI states to advance postsecondary CTE data quality and use. The first brief explores how postsecondary CTE data can be used in support of state education and workforce goals, and features Alabama and Florida.

The second brief advances a theory of change for centering learners in postsecondary CTE data collection and use, featuring the District of Columbia and Oregon. The topics of briefs three and four will be fostering a positive culture of data use among CTE stakeholders and building a strong data infrastructure across systems and silos, respectively. 

Shared Challenges

As with many projects underway over the last two years, states’ implementation of their PDI action plans were challenged by staff-level capacity constraints due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, many of the grantees’ plans were validated by the context of the pandemic, which demonstrated the critical nature of effective – and data-driven – career preparation systems to meet states’ education and workforce goals. 

An evergreen challenge that the PDI states wrangle with is how best to build well-integrated data systems across the silos of state agencies and in collaboration with postsecondary institutions. Further, examining and implementing ways to more effectively communicate CTE data continues to be a priority. 

Common Strategies for Success

Despite these challenges, each of the grantees has demonstrated a commitment to improving postsecondary CTE data to improve learner outcomes. All five states have used stakeholder engagement processes to drive the development and use of new data elements or reports. And each has invested in professional development strategies to foster a strong culture of data use.

Visit the Learning that Works Resource Center to read the first two briefs and for additional data and accountability resources

Candace Williams, Data and Research Manager 

By Stacy Whitehouse in Publications, Resources
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