By Braden Goetz, OCTAE; Levi Bohanan & Sophie Maher, OESE
High school students are gaining new opportunities to participate in career and technical education (CTE) and prepare for in-demand jobs like teaching as a result of President Biden’s $122 billion American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER). High-quality CTE programs can boost school engagement, on-time graduation and academic learning by giving students hands-on opportunities to apply classroom-learned knowledge and skills. In the process, CTE can be a launch pad to in-demand high-quality careers that simultaneously address labor market needs.
Completing a sequence of CTE courses is associated with higher rates of on-time graduation and postsecondary education enrollment. One study using a causal design found that male students enrolled in an information technology (IT) career academy in North Carolina had fewer absences in ninth grade and were more likely to graduate on-time and enroll in postsecondary education than peers who attended a regular comprehensive high school. Another study using causal design found that students attending one of New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) were more likely than their counterparts at regular high schools to pass the state’s high school English Language Arts exam with a score that qualified them to participate in dual enrollment courses—at the end of two years of high school.
High-quality CTE programs like those offered by New York City’s P-TECH schools and the North Carolina IT academy grow from strong partnerships between school districts, employers, and community colleges and other institutions of higher education. These CTE programs are focused on preparing students for in-demand careers that pay family-sustaining wages. Students take an integrated sequence of technical and academic courses that include opportunities to participate in work-based learning and to earn postsecondary credit or industry-recognized credentials.
In approved ARP ESSER state plans, some states have identified expanding CTE opportunities as a strategy in their state-level efforts to return students to the classroom safely, engage them in learning, and equitably address the disruptions to teaching and learning caused by the pandemic. A state must subgrant no less than 90 percent of ARP ESSER funds to school districts. Up to ten percent of the ARP ESSER funds awarded to state educational agencies may be used for state-level activities. This includes a requirement that states set aside at least 5 percent of their funds to address the impact of lost instructional time, at least 1 percent for summer enrichment programs, and at least 1 percent for afterschool programs—and all these resources must be used for evidence-based interventions that address the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic.
For example, last summer, approximately 2,300 youth participated in the New Mexico’s Summer Enrichment Internship Program. Youth worked 20 hours per week for 6 weeks in dozens of paid career opportunities. NMPED used $9.89 million of its ARP ESSER allocation to support the initiative. In its approved ARP ESSER state plan, NMPED also indicates that it will award funds to community-based organizations to implement evidence-based afterschool programs to students, some of which will include paid internships for high school students.
Ohio reports that it will use ARP ESSER state-level funds for several CTE-related initiatives, including Work-Based Learning Incentive Grants that will be awarded to local workforce development boards “to incentivize employers to develop high school on-the-job internship, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities for students.”
Florida intends to use funds available to address lost instructional time for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Accelerator project. Florida plans to engage experts in the field to develop state standards for computer science as well as evidence-based practices to implement these standards.
North Dakota reports in its approved state plan that it will use ARP ESSER funds to “create a pathway for high school students, including members of groups that have been traditionally underrepresented, to gain knowledge and work experiences in the education field.” Through this pathway, students will be given opportunities to earn college credit in the education field while in high school at public schools across the state.
The ARP ESSER funds that are awarded by state educational agencies to local educational agencies (LEAs) help meet a wide range of needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including reopening schools safely, sustaining their safe operation, and at least 20 percent of each LEA’s allocation must be used for evidence-based interventions that address the impact of lost instructional time by addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs resulting from the pandemic. These funds also may be used by LEAs for CTE programs and other activities authorized by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.