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Perkins Moving the Needle on Equity

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Colored pencilsEvery two years under Perkins V, local education agencies (LEAs) who are Perkins grant recipients must conduct a Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment (CLNA). This requires LEAs to consider thoughtfully the meaning of equity. As part of the local grant application, it gives schools the opportunity to look carefully at their school populations and account for the equity gaps within their educational system, including CTE.

Chief among the goals of Perkins V is to bring equity to the forefront of CTE work—and not only racial equity, but also equity among populations that tend to be chronically unemployed or underemployed, including:

  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Individuals from economically disadvantaged families
  • Out-of-workforce individual youth who are in, or have aged out of, the foster care system
  • Homeless individuals

Through the process, LEAs sift through their data, charting the outcomes for students across key groups, and then utilize root-cause analysis to understand the barriers that lead to significantly different outcomes for different populations. It is not a superficial examination. Data must minimally be disaggregated and scrutinized according to race, gender, migrant status, special populations, and students pursuing nontraditional careers.

Using the CLNA to examine equity allows LEAs to chart their progress toward equal access to high-quality CTE courses and career pathways for all students. Over time, they can record their methods, such as:

  • strategies to overcome barriers that result in lower rates of access to, or performance gaps in, the courses and programs for special populations
  • programs that are designed to enable special populations to meet the local levels of performance
  • activities to prepare special populations and ethnic and racial minorities for high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industry sectors or occupations in competitive, integrated settings that will lead to self-sufficiency

The law also challenges LEAs to engage stakeholder groups that they may not have engaged before. These might include special population students, parents, and advocates; business and industry partners; Indian Tribes and organizations; community organizations and networks; and workforce development boards. These stakeholders not only help identify reasons behind disproportionate data gaps but also help design effective strategies that remove barriers to access, participation, or persistence of students in high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industry sector training and learning.

Moving the equity needle aligns CTE programs with the DPI vision of ensuring that every child is career ready upon graduation. When an equity lens is applied consistently to all that is career and technical education, outcomes will transform for educators, students, families, and communities alike.

Christine Lenske—Submitted by Christine Lenske, Grant Specialist, CTE Team, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction