State education agencies, legislators and educators faced significant challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, including adapting to remote and hybrid delivery of hands-on learning, and responding to local and national skilled labor shortages. The number of state-level CTE policies enacted that affect Career Technical Education (CTE) fell to the lowest number in 2020 since Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) began publishing these annual Year in Review reports.
However, with a new commitment to upskilling and reskilling American learners and a CTE without limits, 41 states enacted 138 policies impacting CTE and career readiness in 2021. Advance CTE and ACTE have witnessed the return of pre-pandemic numbers in state policy actions in 2021 with policies affecting the secondary, postsecondary, adult and/or workforce systems, and including legislation, executive orders, and budget provisions that significantly changed funding.
Each year, Advance CTE and ACTE publish a yearly state policy tracker and categorize each state policy action by topic. In 2021, the top five topics that state policy most frequently addressed were:
- Access and equity;
- Data, reporting and/or accountability;
- Industry partnerships and work-based learning; and
- Industry-recognized credentials.
Access and Equity
Policies that address each learner gaining access to and being successful in high-quality CTE programs have been categorized by this topic. Twenty-seven states enacted 45 policies related to access and equity that implement changes aimed to expand access to CTE for historically marginalized learners, including learners of color and learners with special population status such as learners with disabilities, learners who are economically disadvantaged, participants in fields of study that are non-traditional for their gender, single parents and out-of-workforce individuals. This category also includes middle school CTE programming and diversity in the CTE educator workforce. Below are a few state policy actions aligned to access and equity:
- Illinois directed districts and community colleges to ensure access for individual learners with disabilities to postsecondary CTE and dual credit courses. The law requires that dual credit opportunities be supported under the learner’s Section 504 plan or in their Individualized Education Plan.
- Virginia expanded the conditions for receiving benefits under the Virginia Initiative for Education and Work, a program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients, and benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to include participation in educational activities that lead to a postsecondary credential from an accredited institution of higher education or other postsecondary school.
- Washington required that all state community and technical colleges develop, in collaboration with diverse stakeholders, strategic plans to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges must develop a model faculty diversity program to aid in the recruitment and retention of faculty from diverse backgrounds.
State Policies Impacting CTE: 2021 Year in Review marks the ninth annual review of CTE and career readiness policies from across the United States conducted by Advance CTE and ACTE. This report does not describe every policy enacted within each state but instead focuses on national policy trends.
View the full report and 2021 state policy tracker here.
Dan Hinderliter, Senior Policy Associate