This brief, the fourth in a series focused on equity in Career Technical Education (CTE), examinesstrategies state leaders can use to expand CTE opportunities for each learner, including low-incomelearners, learners of color, learners with disabilities, female learners and other historically marginalizedpopulations. The brief also examines promising strategies that states are using to dismantle barriersthat prevent learners from accessing high-quality CTE.Barriers to Accessing High-Quality CTE OpportunitiesIn practice, much of the conversation about equity in CTE is centered around access. Working towardparity in CTE programs is a good focus — particularly to ensure that learners are not under- or overenrolled in a specific program area — but such efforts must be coupled with a focus on programquality so that each and every learner is able to access and participate in a high-quality CTE programof their choice.1Common Access Barriers in CTEThe following are common barriers that may prevent learners from participating in high-qualityCTE programs of study: Geography and availability of high-quality CTE programs in their school or institution ofrecord; Funding and resources; At-home factors (parent involvement, income, trauma, child care needs, health needs); Academic preparation; Awareness/advising; Cultural awareness; and Physical and learning disabilities.CTE programs are widespread in high schools, community colleges and area technical centers acrossthe country. But not all programs are designed equally, and access to truly high-quality CTE programsis less common. While 98 percent of public school districts offered CTE programs to students at thehigh school level in the 2016-17 school year, only one-third of districts reported that all of their CTEprograms were structured as career pathways that align with related postsecondary programs. 2Access gaps are even starker between geographic areas. While 42 percent of urban school districtsreported that all of their CTE programs were structured as career pathways that align with relatedpostsecondary programs, only 30 percent of rural districts reported that all of their CTE programs metthe same criteria.3 This result indicates that a large swath of learners, particularly those in rural areas,do not have geographical access to high-quality CTE programs of study.Advance CTE 8484 Georgia Avenue, Suite 620, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to OpportunityOther factors, such as income, transportation and family status, may also make accessing high-qualityCTE program offerings challenging for certain learners. For instance, postsecondary learners may notbe able to participate in high-quality CTE programs because they cannot secure child care ortransportation. Secondary and postsecondary learners may not be able to participate in CTE programsof study because they are not aware of CTE opportunities, lack the foundational academic skills thatare necessary to be successful in high-quality CTE programs, or cannot meet the entrancerequirements for CTE programs.Some states, however, have taken steps to expand access to high-quality CTE programs of study byaddressing some of the systemic barriers that hinder learners’ participation in CTE programs. In thesestates, leaders have worked to close access gaps by: Securing equitable resources; Expanding geographic access to CTE opportunities; and Addressing barriers to entry into CTE programs of study.Securing Equitable ResourcesEducation institutions at all levels are working toward expanding access to CTE, but resource inequitypresents a challenge to these efforts. To help local institutions expand access to high-quality CTEprograms, states must target their investments of resources and funds to the communities that aremost in need. Compared to other programs, CTE programs can be more expensive to fund due tohigher fixed costs for equipment and facilities as well as costs associated with higher wages forteachers with extensive industry work experience, credential exams and paid work-based learningexperiences, among other expenses. Additionally, providing sufficient funds and resources to supporthigh-quality CTE programs in high-need areas can be difficult for states because of the distribution offunds and a lack of resources to meet learners’ specific needs.All too often, access to funds and resources at the secondary level is a function of the wealth of thecommunity. States use differentiated structures to fund overall education at the elementary andsecondary levels, with roughly 8 percent of funds for elementary and secondary education comingfrom the federal government. However, the remainder is split mostly between state and local funds,which allows communities with a larger tax base to generate more resources for their local schoolsand consequently provide greater access to opportunities for learners.4 In fact, in the 2016-17 schoolyear, school districts in the United States spent 23 billion more on predominantly white schooldistricts than predominantly non-white school districts despite the districts serving roughly the samenumber of learners.5 On average, predominantly non-white school districts received 2,226 less infunding per student than predominantly white districts, and high-poverty, predominantly non-whitedistricts received 1,487 less per student than high-poverty, predominantly white school districts. 6These funding gaps contribute greatly to resource inequities in education across communities withlarge non-white and low-income populations.However, even in areas with significant funds dedicated to each learner, if there is not a commitmentto quality and funds are not leveraged appropriately, access to high-quality CTE programs can still bean issue. Resource inequities can affect individual learners within the same building as well. Forinstance, low-income learners who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch or learners with disabilitieswho may need learning accommodations may require additional care and support in the classroom tounlock their full potential. Resource inequities greatly affect communities that have higherpopulations of learners with additional needs and have a weaker tax base to draw upon.2

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to OpportunityAt the postsecondary level, the cost of attending an educational institution — above and beyond thecost of tuition — can prevent learners from accessing high-quality CTE programs of study. Manycollege students have to work part time or full time to support themselves through school. In theUnited States, 14 million postsecondary learners work more than 15 hours per week. Of those, 43percent are low income, and about a third are over the age of 30.7Postsecondary institutions have limited resources to support these learners. While programs such asthe federal Pell Grant are available to support high-need learners, they are often insufficient to removeall barriers, particularly the cost of attendance at postsecondary institutions. In 1975, Pell covered 79percent of the average cost of tuition, fees, room and board at public four-year colleges; today itcovers just 29 percent.8 This situation is indicative of a pattern of inadequate resources to supportlearners from historically marginalized populations, particularly in environments with rising costs,including rising tuition costs. State leaders have a responsibility to secure appropriate resources andensure that each learner has access to high-quality CTE opportunities.9Amarillo College Emergency FundThe cost of attending a postsecondary institution extends well beyond the cost of tuition. Housing,food, transportation and day care, among other necessities, contribute to the cost of attending apostsecondary institution. For many learners, but particularly for low-income learners, anunexpected cost can be enough to force a learner to drop a class or drop out of a postsecondaryprogram.Recognizing how tenuous many postsecondary learners’ financial situations can be, AmarilloCollege, a community college in Texas, established an emergency fund to cover costs, such as carrepair bills or water bills, that place learners in financial crises. This fund fits within the communitycollege’s larger strategy to support learners in poverty.8 Amarillo College also provides a legal-aidclinic, a food pantry, a low-cost day care center and free mental health counseling to learners toaddress the barriers that can prevent learners from participating in postsecondary programs.Tennessee PromiseSome states, such as Tennessee, have taken steps to increase access to high-quality CTE programs atthe postsecondary level. In 2014, Tennessee launched the Tennessee Promise program, whichprovides two years of tuition-free attendance at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27Tennessee colleges of applied technology (TCATs), or other eligible institutions offering an associatedegree program.10 The program, which is largely funded through an endowment from the statelottery, is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it covers college costs not already covered by federalgrants.Tennessee recognized that a lack of monetary funds is not the only barrier preventing learners fromaccessing postsecondary opportunities. In addition to tuition scholarships, high school studentsreceive guidance and assistance from mentors in applying for college and completing the FreeApplication for Federal Student Aid. Mentors come from many different backgrounds and commit tomentoring five to 10 high school seniors for a total of 10 to 15 hours per year. In 2017, the Tennessee3

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to OpportunityLegislature passed the Tennessee Reconnect Act to expand Tennessee Promise and provide tuitionscholarships for adult learners.11 Scholarships are available to eligible non-degree-holding adultstudents who are admitted to qualifying postsecondary institutions.The Tennessee Promise program has greatly affected learners’ ability to access postsecondaryopportunities. In the first year of the program’s implementation, the statewide college-going rateincreased by 5.9 percentage points to 64.3 percent and has remained at this level since.12 Additionally,enrollment at public institutions overall increased 11.8 percent in the first year of the program’simplementation, with community colleges experiencing a 27.7 percent increase and TCATsexperiencing a 20 percent increase in first-time freshmen enrollment.13Tuition-Free vs. Debt-Free CollegeProgramsTennessee Promise is a tuition-free collegeprogram, meaning that it fully covers thecost of tuition at a postsecondaryinstitution. While this supportundoubtedly expands access topostsecondary opportunities for learners,such programs tend to favor high-incomestudents whose tuition is not alreadycovered by the federal Pell Grant. Learnersin tuition-free college programs may stillhave to take out loans to pay for housing,books and food, among other expenses.Debt-free college programs subsidize thefull cost of attending a postsecondaryinstitution so that learners in the programdo not need to take out loans to coveradditional costs beyond tuition.The program also has a positive impact on learners’graduation and transfer rates. Fifty-six percent ofTennessee Promise students who entered college in2015 had graduated, had transferred or were stillenrolled by 2017 — a rate that was 17 percentagepoints higher than students who had not enrolled inTennessee Promise.14 In total, the program has helpedto facilitate more than 50,000 learners’ participation inpostsecondary opportunities.15 By providing financialsupport and mentorship, Tennessee is able to addresssome of the major barriers that prevent learners fromaccessing postsecondary opportunities: lack ofresources and advising.However, the Tennessee Promise program does notcover the additional expenses associated withattending a postsecondary institution, such as books,food, housing and medical costs. As leaders in everystate develop programs to expand access to CTE tomore learners, considerations must be given to thevariety of barriers that prevent learners from accessingprograms.Rhode Island Innovation and Equity GrantsState leaders can also leverage resources to promote systemic change to close equity gaps. RhodeIsland has begun this work through its Innovation and Equity Grants. An initiative under PrepareRI, astatewide effort to equip all Rhode Island youth with the skills needed for high-wage jobs, theInnovation and Equity Grants aim to expand access to high-quality career preparation opportunities inpriority industries for historically marginalized learner populations.Rhode Island recognized the need for this grant program after using data to identify access and equitygaps within specific Career Clusters . After state leaders at the Rhode Island Department of Education(RIDE) disaggregated Career Cluster data by sub-population, they found that English languagelearners, female learners, learners with disabilities, learners of color and low-income learners were notparticipating in CTE programs aligned with priority, high-paying industries in proportion to the largerstudent population.164

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to OpportunityRhode Island CTE equity gaps in 2015-16 by industry sector, as represented by the difference between thepercentage of students from the disadvantaged group in CTE programs and in overall Rhode Island high schoolenrollment. Positive numbers indicate over-representation, and negative numbers indicate under-representation.Retrieved from the Rhode Island Department of Education.After identifying these equity gaps, RIDE recognized an urgent need to support schools and schooldistricts to recruit under-represented learners and, as such, reallocated state CTE funding to developthe Innovation and Equity Grants. The grants are administered competitively to local educationagencies for new or existing CTE programs that expand access to CTE for learner populations that arecurrently under-served, align to a priority sector industry as defined by the Governor’s WorkforceBoard and meet industry-specific content standards. Grant recipients receive up to 150,000 over twoyears and must provide a 25 percent local match to the amount of funding received.The grant funds can be used to support implementation of a program for two years or to support oneyear of planning and one year of implementation. To ensure that the grants are actively helping toclose equity gaps, the grant program is outcomes focused. Grant recipients must include outcomeand implementation goals in their applications, which are evaluated in the middle and at the end ofeach grant year. The outcome goals must measure the impact of the program on learners and includecredentials earned by the target populations and a goal related to closing credential gaps. RIDEfocused specifically on ensuring that each new seat in a high-quality CTE pathway is made availablefor previously overlooked learners, bringing a concentrated focus on impact to a statewideinvestment. The implementation goals must measure whether the program carried out the planproposed in the application and must include a goal related to equity seats, the number of new highquality CTE seats for disadvantaged learners the program made available.RIDE received 25 applications in 2018 and awarded a total of 1.2 million to eight recipient localeducation agencies. Through leveraging existing state funding for CTE, RIDE is able to provide5

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to Opportunityinstitutions with the resources they need to invest in improving or creating new programs that willprovide more CTE opportunities to historically marginalized populations.Expanding Geographic Access to CTE OpportunitiesState leaders must also recognize the impact that location has on a learner’s ability to access highquality CTE opportunities. Many rural areas lack high-quality CTE opportunities because they do nothave access to the same resources as urban communities, such as CTE teachers and employers willingto support work-based learning opportunities.17 However, even urban areas that have more resourcesstruggle to provide each learner with high-quality CTE opportunities because of zip code inequity.Given the history of segregation in the United States by race and class, significant structural racismand classism still exist and prohibit certain populations from accessing robust CTE opportunitiesbecause of the area in which they live. Certain communities, particularly historically marginalizedcommunities, may be unable to participate in high-quality CTE opportunities because oftransportation issues and the location of educational institutions and communities in relation toemployers, among other barriers.Ohio: Leveraging Geographical Information Systems to Expand CTE Opportunities for Each LearnerSome states, such as Ohio, have taken steps to ensure that each learner has access to CTEopportunities regardless of where he or she resides. Ohio uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS)to identify equity gaps in access to meaningful programming, serve learners of color and urbanlearners more effectively, and tighten the alignment between program offerings and local needs.Ohio is using GIS to develop a mapping tool that will allow districts to identify key factors that supportor inhibit learners’ access to work-based learning and CTE opportunities. Drawing on nationallyavailable datasets, the maps allow users to examine the availability of work-based learning and CTEprograms in different communities. The maps also allow users to consider the demographics of acommunity, including race, class, disability and English learner status, to see which populations aremost affected by the key factors, such as transportation and access to industry, that support or inhibitwork-based learning and CTE opportunities.For example, Ohio used the mapping tool to demonstrate that black and economically disadvantagedlearners in one community had disproportionately fewer high-quality CTE programs in theircommunities than their peers. In particular, the map showed that the nearest high-quality CTEprogram in one neighborhood was only a mile and half away, but the program and the communitywere separated by a major highway. Therefore, despite the proximity of the program, learners had noway to safely access the program without transportation provided by the district. Such maps allowOhio to create a sense of urgency around providing historically marginalized communities access toCTE programs and allow the districts that serve the communities to understand where they shouldfocus their resources to address barriers to access.Ohio recognizes that the data from its maps do not tell the whole story and should be used as astarting point in the state’s efforts to expand access to learners. GIS helps Ohio understand thecomplexity of the state environment so the state can decide whom it should convene to take action toexpand opportunities for each learner. Ohio plans to use the data from the maps to help districtsdevelop action plans to address equity gaps through a new series of equity labs, which the OhioDepartment of Education will pilot in the 2019-20 school year. During an equity lab, state and local6

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to Opportunityeducation agencies convene to examine data and identify equity gaps, including gaps in access toprogramming. The state agency will work with the districts to help them develop equity action plansand incorporate these plans into their local applications for the Strengthening Career and TechnicalEducation for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) funds.Addressing Barriers to Entry Into CTE Programs of StudyThe introduction of entrance requirements for CTE programs of study and a lack of awareness aboutthe CTE opportunities available are significant barriers that prevent learners from entering CTEprograms.High-quality CTE programs of study blend technical, employability and academic skills to preparelearners for high-wage, high-skill, in-demand occupations. Since many learners enter their program ofstudy in the 10th or 11th grade, if they lack key foundational skills at that point in their education, theymay not have the skills necessary to excel in high-quality CTE programs of study. To ensure thatlearners who participate in programs have the necessary skills, many states have set entrancerequirements for programs of study. However, these entrance requirements can act as a significantbarrier to learners’ ability to access high-quality CTE programs.Recently, some states also have introduced entrance requirements to address a demand for highquality CTE programs that exceeds the opportunities available. When developing entrancerequirements, states should examine data closely and frequently to ensure that these requirementsare predictive of learner success in CTE programs and are not just a means to address an excessdemand for CTE programs. They should also examine learner data to see who is disproportionatelynegatively affected by the entrance requirements and establish strategies to close any equity gapsthat may exist. As an alternative to entrance requirements, state leaders can invest in and supportprograms, such as bridge programs or summer intensive programs, that will help to ensure that eachlearner has the foundational skills needed to succeed in CTE programs.Key Equity Questions for CTEState leaders should consider the following questions as they work to ensure that each learner isprepared to participate in high-quality CTE programs of study: How do policies related to academic/technical preparation, advising, entrancerequirements, etc. prevent students from being prepared to participate in high-qualityCTE programs?What partnerships may the state CTE office build to ensure that learners are on a path tobe prepared to participate in high-quality CTE programs?However, entrance requirements are not the only barriers preventing learners from being prepared forhigh-quality CTE programs of study. Opportunity gaps in CTE also exist, in part, because of a lack ofawareness of CTE opportunities or a lack of access to information that would allow learners to makeinformed decisions. The Making Good on the Promise: Building Trust to Promote Equity in CTE briefoutlines strategies states can use to make information accessible to learners, communities andparents.18 Additionally, advising can play a key role in closing information and awareness gaps. Eachlearner should have someone in his or her life who can play the role of navigator, helping guide the7

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to Opportunitylearner along his or her educational journey, determine the steps needed to take to achieve his or heracademic and career goals, and identify options to dismantle prohibitive barriers.South Carolina Education and Economic Development ActSome states, such as South Carolina, have taken steps to ensure that each learner receivesindividualized guidance to be prepared for advanced coursework, including CTE, in high school. In2005, the state’s Legislature passed the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Act(EEDA), which established the Personal Pathways to Success program.19 Under the program, everyhigh school student is required to declare a “major” aligned with one of the nationally recognized 16Career Clusters. Students are expected to take career-focused courses through their electivegraduation requirements, and districts are required to offer a standards-based academic curriculumthat is organized around a Career Cluster system and provides students with individualized educationchoices. Through this curriculum, every learner receives a rigorous academic foundation that equipslearners with the skills to achieve their college and career goals, even as these goals shift.EEDA articulates a framework for career advisement that spans the entire elementary and secondaryeducation continuum. Under the law, school districts are required to offer career exploration inelementary school.20 To ensure that each learner has access to a guidance counselor, at the highschool level, districts are required to provide at least one counselor for every 300 students, which issignificantly less than the national student-to-counselor ratio of 482:1.21 Individual guidance andsupport services are connected to students’ individual graduation plan, which they develop in eighthgrade and update annually with support from parents, teachers and school counselors. The individualgraduation plan details the student’s course requirements, high school major, career aspiration andmore.As a result of this program, in the 2016-17 school year, 264,527 learners in grades eight through 12 —virtually 100 percent of the learner population — completed individualized graduation plans. 22Through the Personal Pathways to Success program, South Carolina was able to change its educationsystem to ensure that each learner, regardless of background, is made aware of education and careeroptions and is placed on a path that ensures that he or she will complete the necessary courseworkand experiences to achieve his or her individual academic and career goals.A Path ForwardHigh-quality CTE programs of study equip learners with the real-world skills they need to succeed inthe workforce. However, many learners, particularly those from historically marginalized communities,do not have access to these programs due to systemic barriers, resulting in significant opportunitygaps between learner populations. States leaders should consider the following when working towardclosing opportunity gaps in CTE: Secure and leverage resources to close CTE opportunity gaps: State leaders should activelyseek and reallocate resources to better serve the institutions and learners that are most inneed. State leaders should leverage funding to hold institutions accountable for andincentivize institutions to close equity gaps. Work with stakeholders to expand geographic access to CTE: State leaders should identifywhy and where learners cannot access CTE opportunities because of geographical barriers.8

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to OpportunityState leaders should work with the appropriate stakeholders to create strategies to expandaccess to CTE opportunities, such as leveraging funds to provide appropriate transportation toCTE opportunities and leveraging technology to connect learners with industry experts, toaddress these barriers. Dismantle barriers that prevent learners from entering CTE programs: State leadersshould identify the barriers that are preventing learners from being prepared to participate inCTE programs of study, whether that is a lack of academic preparation, lack of advising,entrance requirements or other barriers. State leaders should then build strategic partnershipsand advocate for programmatic and policy changes that will ensure that each learner isprepared to participate in high-quality CTE programs of study. For instance, state leaders canleverage Perkins V to extend career exploration into early grades to prepare learners forprograms of study.AcknowledgmentsAdvance CTE would like to thank our partners, without whom this brief would not havebeen possible: Casey Haugner Wrenn, Assistant Commissioner, Division of College andCareer Readiness, Tennessee Department of Education; Adenike Huggins, Senior Director,Education Policy and Advocacy, National Urban League; Angel Malone, CATE Director,Office of Career and Technology Education, South Carolina Department of Education;Steve Osborn, Chief for Innovation, Rhode Island Department of Education; Emily Passias,Director, Office of Career-Technical Education, Ohio Department of Education; SpencerSherman, Director, Office of College and Career Readiness, Rhode Island Department ofEducation; Nicole Smith, Education Specialist, Secondary Reform, Rhode IslandDepartment of Education; and Johan Uvin, President, Institute for Educational Leadership.This brief was developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of theCouncil of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group,generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.1Advance CTE. (2017). Policy benchmark tool: CTE program of study approval. Retrieved al-policy-benchmark-tool2U.S. Department of Education. (2018). Career and technical education programs in public school districts: 2016-17.Retrieved from . Department of Education. (2017). The federal role in education. Retrieved ml5EdBuild. (2019). 23 billion. Retrieved from etown University Center on Education and the Workforce. (2018). Balancing work and learning:Implications for low-income students. Retrieved from n/8Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2017). Pell Grants — a key tool for expanding college access and economicopportunity — need strengthening, not cuts. Retrieved from economic-opportunity9

Making Good on the Promise: Expanding Access to OpportunityBombardieri, M. (2018). Colleges are no match for American poverty. The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018/05/college-poor-students/560972/10Tennessee Government. (n.d.). About Tennessee Promise. Retrieved from Reconnect Act. (2017). Retrieved lt.aspx?BillNumber HB0531&GA 11012Tennessee Higher Education Commission & Tennessee Student Assistance Corpor

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