Access and equity in school systems has been a longstanding issue over the past decade— and this year has been no different. State leaders have made commitments to advancing equity in CTE, most notably in their Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) plans. Despite well-intentioned legislation that aims to focus on student success, administrators are tasked with carefully balancing a full workload of reporting requirements and student support. How can educators sustain policy requirements while maintaining a focus on equity in CTE and WBL programs?
In the spring of 2020, states finalized their initial CTE plans for the federal Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). Then in 2021, 30 pieces of state legislation was passed in 17 states in an effort to address similar issues. Many of the new policies focus on elevating the learner voice, deeply examining inequitable systems, and providing financial support for underrepresented areas.
Oregon SB623, for example, requires the State Workforce and Talent Development Board to create a Committee for Continuous Improvement. This Committee must incorporate input from marginalized communities to focus on identifying barriers, improving experience and access to CTE programs, and ensure that individuals impacted by COVID-19 are prioritized and served. This requires a major increase in efforts, like:
While developing WBL frameworks may be robust, they don’t have to be complicated. Following local, state and federal policies—along with ensuring alignment with student preparedness—can be simplified when following WBL best practices.
When meaningful and accessible business partnerships are created, student engagement and participation is strengthened. Low income, Black, and Latinx students have a stronger preference in aligning their interests and personalities with like-minded individuals and business partnerships— so outreach and relationship management are more crucial than ever.
Through WBL experiences such as internships and apprenticeships, young people can learn the technical, academic, and interpersonal skills they need to function in a workplace while helping fill the talent pipeline for local businesses.
While finding and maintaining business relationships is a challenge in itself, fostering a healthy relationship between students and the partner is equally important. Research shows that supportive relationships with adult educators (teachers, counselors, CTE directors, business partnerships, etc.) are critical for healthy development. They offer students the opportunity to learn self-regulating behavior, develop social skills, and build resiliency. Schools are responsible for not only providing opportunities to build these connections, but to ensure student safety (through employer background checks, geo check-ins, and more).
Learner voice is the act of designing curriculum with learners, not simply for learners, to be cognizant to the diverse needs of students at every stage of the CTE continuum. CTE leaders often gauge learner voice by identifying ways to track student engagement. Through feedback and active participation, students can offer key takeaways to support the growth and evolution of CTE and WBL programs.
Work-Based Learning is commonly illustrated as a continuum that includes career awareness, career exploration, and workplace learning (or training). They range from low-exposure to high-exposure, from the initial exposure to a career (like career clusters) to intimate experiences, like internships or pre-apprenticeships.
As students move through the continuum, there is increasing responsibility for staff to build meaningful relationships that transfer into post-secondary opportunities.
If you’re looking at numbers on a spreadsheet, using an SIS or LMS, relying on a homegrown system or managing partners through a CRM, you’re likely not seeing the bigger picture.
With a focus on equity, administrators need to pull reports by demographic segments to see performance and compare and contrast data points. Most school districts are ill-equipped to pull these reports, and are stuck scratching their head asking one another how to handle the workload.
Students often have disproportionate access to Work-Based Learning and other “choose your own adventure” graduation opportunities. Comprehensive data and visual representations can clearly articulate areas for growth. With physical spreadsheets and paper tracking, it’s easy to miss key information or look past red flags.
With the reporting and tracking that is required of these programs, educators are forced to spend time on manually tracking work hours, providing robust reporting to stakeholders, compiling complicated spreadsheets, and encouraging student engagement. When more time is focused on administrative work, less time is spent working with students.
Though the efforts of each policy and legislative change are positive, they require increased resources at school and district levels. Despite great intentions from Perkins V, ESSA and WIOA, adding layers of reporting and program management causes a strain on counselors and CTE directors. Simply complying to new policies is not enough: students need to be supported fully and holistically, and counselors and CTE directors need the bandwidth to do so. So how can leaders ensure equity is at the forefront of CTE?
By leveraging modern technology and software, school systems are able to streamline their processes so more time can be spent with students. Most often, administrators are relying on manual processes and complicated spreadsheets that don’t truly fit their needs. By leveraging integrated software, however, technology is able to eliminate challenges and make room for new, student-centered initiatives.
Olathe school district in Kansas, for example, implemented Transeo Jobs to assist with managing their WBL efforts. Barbra Gonzales, the district's Career & Technical Education (CTE) Coordinator, saves hours of work each month by pulling reports, analyzing metrics, and ensuring compliance with Perkins V funding. With the time she’s saved, she focuses more on supporting students and building relationships with business partners.
Transeo’s Suite of Student Readiness software was built by educators who were feeling overwhelmed by robust reporting requirements, staying on top of policy changes, tracking graduation requirements, and building new CTE programs. In an effort to get back to what they love (supporting students), they built Transeo: a suite of fully integratable tools that does that manual work so administrators don’t have to.
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