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The Perkins V Grant Supports Equity in Action

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century Act, often referred to as Perkins V*, has brought changes in requirements as well as new opportunities related to career and technical education programs. It has changed the way CTE decisions are made at the state and local levels, how quality career pathways are implemented, and how successful student outcomes can be achieved.

The key to this new approach is the introduction of a comprehensive local needs assessment (CLNA), required of every grant applicant. The CLNA is the lever that allows grant applicants to gain broad stakeholder involvement; it serves as the tool for data analysis and is the driver for moving program initiatives forward. In other words, it provides a framework for data-driven decision-making.

Through the CLNA process of analyzing data, stakeholders can identify program gaps and needs. As a result, they can determine future practices and priorities that address the gaps and lead to positive outcomes for all students. The Perkins V CLNA is an opportunity to look analytically at what’s working and expand on those aspects so that programs can move the needle forward in college and career readiness for students. In essence, it opens up opportunities for grant recipients to pivot from what was done in previous years and take the next steps in expanding quality career pathways.

The law further recognizes that equitable practices are tied to quality CTE programs. By design, it encourages grant recipients to look deeply at what is and is not working in teaching and learning as well as access to courses for certain groups of students, particularly special populations, and ethnic and racial minorities. The funding supports grant recipients in taking the necessary steps to implement promising practices that meet the needs of all students, removing identified barriers to program or career pathway participation.

The key questions for applicant stakeholders to consider concerning data analysis include, what does the data tell us about our students? What courses or programs have disproportionality, or equity gaps, in student participation and success? In other words, what groups of students are participating in a particular career pathway or course and what groups clearly are not? And why is that? Once the “why” is determined, goals, strategies, and activities are identified to remove these barriers.

In essence, the Perkins grant application has come to resemble a strategic plan for addressing gaps in programs and equitable participation (identified through the CLNA) by applying Perkins funds tactically. The requirement that Perkins spending must be tied to needs identified through the CLNA is an intentional shift away from how spending decisions were made in the past. Many agencies have leveraged these opportunities in the following ways:

  • Local leadership teams took tremendous steps to collaborate by engaging local stakeholders not previously involved, by building on current stakeholder connections, and then filling in where the law required new partners.
  • Districts used the CLNA process as an opportunity to develop districtwide CTE strategic plans, establishing goals to better meet the needs of all students..
  • Teams tackled how to address gaps in participation or successful outcomes through root-cause analysis.
  • Teams used the CLNA process to identify strategies or activities to mitigate the gaps and achieve local goals.

While there have been some growing pains under the new law and COVID-19 has brought additional challenges, the DPI CTE team is very encouraged by districts who have embraced the task at hand and have kept their eye on improving education for all students.

Based on what was learned over the year, we recently asked CTE Coordinators and leadership teams to consider the following questions as they move their programs forward in the second year of Perkins V implementation:

  • What are the priorities now and into the future?
  • Keep your sights on the goals of quality CTE. How can you keep moving size, scope and quality elements forward? What are the next steps?
  • What inequalities were exacerbated by COVID, and what can be done about them as you look to your 2021-22 Perkins application?

Your answers to these questions can trigger discussion that will ultimately improve your programs and the outcomes for your students.

*Signed in July 2018, the Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century Act is the fifth iteration of the original Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act passed in 1984.

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

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