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Equitable Access to Career and Technical Education Elective Courses Can Help Engagement, Graduation & Career Prospects for English Learner Students
Press Release
Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Equitable Access to Career and Technical Education Elective Courses Can Help Engagement, Graduation & Career Prospects for English Learner Students

WASHINGTON, DC — Once considered a less-rigorous high school pathway, career and technical education (CTE) has experienced a renaissance since the 1990s, as more high-skilled and white-collar professions were included in course options. Participation in CTE is correlated with benefits in graduation rates and earnings as an adult.

As CTE’s scope has grown, educators and advocates have underscored the need to ensure equitable access for historically marginalized student groups. For high school English Learners (ELs), who often face challenges with college and career readiness, CTE can play an important role in helping them stay engaged in school, graduate and get on a path to a career providing a family-sustaining wage.

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy explores policies and practices that can support ELs’ participation in CTE courses. The report, Unlocking Opportunities: Supporting English Learners’ Equitable Access to Career and Technical Education, includes an overview of how CTE has changed over time, state-level data on EL participation rates and a look at the opportunities and barriers to EL enrollment and participation.

While 2019-2020 enrollment data reflect that ELs were enrolled in CTE largely in proportion to their share of the high school population in most states, the lack of local data makes it difficult to gauge if individual schools and districts have significant over- or under-enrollment, writes Julie Sugarman, senior policy analyst for pre-K-12 education at the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

Under-representation of ELs in CTE was most significant in Alaska, Indiana and Rhode Island, and the over-representation was greatest in Idaho, California and Virginia as of the 2019-2020 school year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Scheduling EL students in CTE can be challenging as classes in English language development, for example, and additional support or remedial classes are typically prioritized over electives such as CTE. Administrators may also be reluctant to schedule ELs for CTE if they know that instructors, who often are hired from industry rather than traditional teacher training routes, have little preparation or knowledge of how to work with ELs.

Drawing in part on interviews with state and district CTE and EL administrators, the report offers recommendations for state and local educators seeking to further strengthen policy and practice.

“With many school systems focused on an equitable recovery from the pandemic, ensuring all students have meaningful access to CTE can be an asset in meeting educational goals and preparing students for their future,” the report concludes. “State and local policies and practices that foster interdepartmental cooperation, support tailored to students’ and families’ needs and accountability for student access to programs are essential building blocks for providing those opportunities.”

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/english-learners-career-technical-education.

For more MPI work on English Learners, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/topics/k-12-education.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.