How schools can improve CTE during COVID-19

Online learning could have increased the equity gap for students enrolled in career technical education courses
By: | June 3, 2020
Leaders need to gather data to come up with new CTE online projects since students might not be receiving quality career technical education online.Massachusetts Association Vocational Administrators

Students might not be receiving quality career technical education during school closures, which would negatively impact their college and career readiness upon graduation. K-12 leaders therefore need to gather data that will identify which students and programs need more support.

“Some programs such as graphic design transitioned easily to online learning but it has been harder for courses that rely heavily on equipment and machinery, so the equity gap for students enrolled in these courses will need to be closed,” says Kate Kreamer, deputy ED of Advance CTE, a national nonprofit that represents state CTE directors and state leaders.

Adjusting data-gathering practices to focus on improving equity can help school systems identify which students failed to complete their credentials or didn’t get far enough in their coursework during school closures. For example, some learners enrolled in agricultural programs might not live on a farm while those learning about automotive technology might not have an extra car to work on. Schools can also gather information from students and their families. “You cannot address equity gaps and redirect resources if you don’t have that clarification,” says Kreamer. “Right now, we aren’t sure who the students are who were impacted most, but historically, it is usually disadvantaged students who are marginalized further unintentionally.”

Improving CTE access and equity

The Making Good on the Promise series by Advance CTE provides solutions to the key challenges that learners face today to help close equity gaps in CTE.

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CTE online project ideas in lieu of machinery

As states roll back shelter-in-place restrictions, some schools have been allowing a certain number of students to visit shops or labs on campus to work at specially designated stations every visit, says Kreamer. At other schools, teachers have been recording themselves on Zoom using hands-on equipment for students.

In Texas, work sites are closed, so many schools are using an online platform called Nepris that matches schools and students with employers so they can participate in various classes. “Collision repair and mechanic courses can redirect their lesson plans to focus on entrepreneurism or to discuss back end business processes in the auto industry,” says Kreamer. “This might not have been the priority in these particular classes, but when schools reopen, these courses can then transition back to hands-on activities.”

She adds, “It’s all about identifying how far students can go without getting their hands on any equipment, so that when they do have access to this machinery, they are already 90% there.”

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