Ohio has been locked in the jaws of a busy budget season for months. There’s beenon a variety of education policies, including graduation requirements, academic distress commissions, and school choice.
Meanwhile, a few other, equally important education policy developments have been lost in the shuffle. Chief among them is, the long-awaited reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. This federal law governs how states implement and expand access to CTE programs, and provides over a billion dollars in funding to states, districts, and community colleges.
Although the bill was signed into law last summer, it didn’tuntil July 1 of this year. Ohio submitted a one-year to the U.S. Department of Education back in May. That plan has since been approved, and will guide the Buckeye State’s implementation of Perkins V until the full, four-year state plan—due to the feds in April of 2020—is approved.
The plan contains plenty of important provisions. But there are two pilot programs, in particular, that are worthy of discussion and of praise.
Work-based learning (WBL) is designed to help students master a combination of academic, technical, and professional skills. After the passage of Perkins V, officials at the U.S. Department of Educationas one of the best methods by which states could “rethink” CTE and improve outcomes for young people.
Ohio already has a WBL system in place. Participating students are jointly supervised by an employer and a representative from their school, and the state has athat schools must follow to grant high school credit to students who demonstrate subject competency through their WBL experience. The state also provides a .
Prior to the passage of Perkins V, Ohio wasits WBL system as part of the initiative. Now state officials are extending these efforts to focus on providing more and better resources. According to the transition plan, the Ohio Department of Education will use the next year to “pilot a statewide system to assist educators, students and employers in coordinating high-quality work-based learning for students.” There aren’t any details about what this pilot program will look like, so it’s hard to predict how widespread—or how effective—it will be. But there’s no doubt that it’s needed. Thousands of Ohio students could benefit from WBL, but they lack both access to and information about various workplace opportunities. This pilot could be instrumental in helping Ohio solidify and improve its WBL system.
Regional equity labs
Perkins Vthat require states to complete local comprehensive needs assessments and to increase stakeholder engagement, similar to what happened with . The new law also requires states to focus more on meeting the needs of special populations and improving equity. Ohio will address these issues simultaneously by piloting an initiative for secondary CTE programs known as the Regional Equity Lab Strategy.
These labs will be facilitated by the Ohio Department of Education, but participants will be identified by career-technical planning districts (CTPDs), of which there are. State law requires all school districts and charter schools to be members of a CTPD, and Ohio’s transition plan requires each CTPD to identify a team to participate in an equity lab, so the pilot should include representatives from every corner of the state. Teams that are identified by CTPDs will include local educators and administrators, workforce development professionals, school counselors, and other staff and stakeholders.
The task before these groups is to analyze data in three main areas—access, engagement and enrollment, and student outcomes—and identify gaps that exist between student subgroups. Teams will use these data to create goals and action plans that will be included as part of the local needs assessments. Although the devil will be in the details, these equity labs and the action plans they produce could be instrumental in helping CTE programs identify data-driven solutions to close access, performance, and equity gaps.
Pilot programs are double-edged swords. They can be a great way to test a reform idea, ease into a big change, or identify solutions to complicated problems. But they can also fall by the wayside pretty quickly when things get busy, and without careful attention, even positive outcomes could get lost. The pilot programs identified in the state’s Perkins V transition plan are no different. They have a lot of promise, and done well, they could drive improved CTE program quality and equity. Let’s not let them get lost in the shuffle.