One of the biggest changes in the Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) is the requirement for grant applicants to conduct a comprehensive local needs assessment (CLNA) prior to their application for funds and update it at least every two years. The aim is to check in regularly to make sure CTE programs are meeting the needs of stakeholders and maintaining a focus on continuous quality improvement.
“This allows for an incredible opportunity,” says Christine Lenske, Grant Specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). “It really gives school communities—including school personnel, families, and regional employers—an opportunity to weigh in on CTE student outcomes, the goals of CTE programs, and prioritizing strategies. And it allows educators to consider how schools can better prepare students for real-world careers.”
The CLNA process begins by bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the aims of CTE. The types of stakeholders that make up this group are defined in the legislation and include representatives from CTE programs, business/industry, parents, students, special populations, and others.
When done thoughtfully, the reward is a shared vision for CTE that can help drive decisions about programming. The CLNA is an opportunity to address several key goals of high quality CTE programs:
- To create programs and opportunities to ensure access and success for each student that lead to high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand occupations
- To ensure programs of study are aligned with and validated by local workforce needs and economic priorities
- To set strategic short- and long-term goals and priorities to ensure coordinated program review and improvement processes
- To regularly engage in conversation with stakeholders around the quality and impact of local CTE programs and systems
The key to a successful process is to be thoughtful in your planning, according to Lenske. “Be sure to identify the data to review and the required stakeholders to invite,” she says. “It’s also important to ask the right questions in order to identify the gaps and needs in the district or region relative to quality CTE. Typical questions might include, Is the program responsive to our regional employment needs? Or, Is our CTE program providing what’s necessary for students to be successful in completing the program and moving on to the next phase after graduation?”
If a program isn’t delivering on its goals, applicants have the flexibility to change the focus of their programs.
While districts have completed needs assessments for other grant programs such as ESSA (which may be a helpful resource), the CTE team is in the process of developing guidance specific to CTE that will be published later this spring.
Reminder: If you have not already taken the Perkins V Stakeholder Survey, please do so before it closes on April 19. Your input will inform the development of Wisconsin’s new state plan around Perkins V. Thank you.
—Submitted by Christine Lenske, Grant Specialist