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Perkins V: The “Why” and “How” of Conducting a Needs Assessment

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Last month, we provided an overview of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education in the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) and introduced the comprehensive local needs assessment (CLNA), a new requirement in the law that applicants must complete before starting their grant application. This month, we address the purpose of the CLNA and how to get started.

Why Do a Needs Assessment?
So why does Perkins V require applicants to complete a CLNA? In short, the grant requires that local program decision-making be data-driven. The purpose of a needs assessment is to help local CTE leaders identify, understand, and prioritize their needs and strategies in order to improve student performance and the quality of programs.

When the needs assessment process is complete, LEAs will have a set of findings that paints a picture of your agency’s CTE programs. This has several benefits:

  • You will learn how well the findings align with the agency’s vision for CTE.
  • You will find where your current program has gaps and understand why they exist.
  • You will be in a good position to determine strategies that address identified needs in a meaningful way. This will likely include deciding which programs and activities will be priorities in the coming year.

How to Begin
It may seem an obvious point, and yet, it bears repeating: Start early to make a plan. A thorough CLNA process will take four to eight months to complete, and it must precede the FY2020-21 application process. Or put another way, the application process typically begins in early March, which is essentially your deadline for completing the CLNA. Working back from March to the present, you’ll want to create a timeline with deadlines for your tasks related to the process. Tasks include but are not limited to deciding whom to engage, scheduling and organizing meetings, gathering needed materials, determining a communications process with communications materials, compiling information, determining decision points, recording discussions, and so on.

The CLNA process begins by bringing together key stakeholders, including special populations and those who represent them, to discuss the aims of CTE and student outcomes. This discussion will call on a broad range of required stakeholders to evaluate how the LEA’s overall CTE offerings measure up in several areas. These areas include:

  1. Performance on federal accountability indicators
  2. Alignment to labor market needs
  3. Scope, size and quality of programs offered
  4. Progress toward implementing programs and programs of study
  5. Recruitment, retention and training of faculty and staff
  6. Progress toward improving access and ensuring equity for all students

At the end of the process, you will merge these separate analyses into one set of findings. With your findings in hand, you will engage stakeholders in setting a future vision for addressing identified needs, including deciding which programs and activities to prioritize in your Perkins grant application.

The bottom line is, this all takes time. Allow yourself the time it takes to do a thorough assessment. It will save time in the long run, and it all starts with a plan.

Consortia should note that the CLNA will need to be completed as a consortium, not individual districts, though member districts will have to be a part of the process and have a role in assessing their data and local programs.

More information on the requirements of the CLNA will be made available shortly on the CTE Perkins V webpage.

Christine Lenske—Submitted by Christine Lenske, Grant Specialist