In 2017-18, nearly 11.8 million students in the United States participated in Career Technical Education (CTE) — 8.8 million in secondary and 2.9 million in postsecondary. Of those students, 877,938 were secondary learners with disabilities, and 126,110 were postsecondary learners with disabilities.
When students with disabilities have access to and the supports needed to thrive in high-quality CTE programs, the outcomes are promising. In general, participation in CTE courses has been tied to “a positive impact on wages, with an increase of 2 percent for every high-level class” in which a student participates. This effect is reinforced for students with disabilities. Recent research links “concentrated CTE participation to improved graduation and employment for students with [physical and learning] disabilities.”
However, state leaders still face challenges when attempting to equitably serve students with disabilities. Advance CTE’s latest resource, developed in collaboration with the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), outlines five actions state CTE leaders can take to ensure that secondary and postsecondary students with disabilities have access to and the supports needed to thrive in high-quality CTE programs. Specifically, Making Good on the Promise: Improving Equity and Access to Quality CTE Programs for Students with Disabilities examines how state CTE leaders can:
- Leverage the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) to ensure that secondary and postsecondary learners with disabilities have access to high-quality CTE programs and instruction;
- Ensure that systems are in place to provide high-quality career guidance and advisement to secondary and postsecondary learners with disabilities;
- Leverage data to identify and close equity gaps;
- Provide professional development to staff, instructors and support personnel; and
- Ensure that learners with disabilities have access to high-quality work-based learning opportunities.
This resource is part of the Making Good on the Promise series, which confronts the negative aspects of CTE’s legacy and defines the key challenges learners face today. The series provides promising solutions to help state leaders close equity gaps in CTE to ensure that each learner is able to attain the promise of CTE — a high-skill, high-wage, in-demand career.
Brianna McCain, former Policy Associate
 Kreisman, D., & Stange, K. (2019). Depth over breadth: The value of vocational education in U.S. high schools. Education Next, 19(4), 76-84.
 Theobald, R. J., Goldhaber, D. D., Gratz, T. M., & Holden, K. L. (2019). Career and technical education, inclusion, and postsecondary outcomes for students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 52(2), 109–119.