MDRC in the News

Preventing CTE Renaissance from Repeating Problems of the Past

THE Journal

08/2019

How can the career and technical education programs of today avoid the equity problems that plagued vocational education in previous generations? That’s the question at the heart of a new policy brief from MDRC.

The nonprofit, which tackles some of the stickiest problems facing the country, brought together practitioners from 14 “innovative” CTE programs to discuss the topic. The goal was to prevent CTE, which is currently “enjoying a renaissance” as a route to middle-skill jobs in high-wage, high-demand fields, from becoming mired in the problems of the past, where voc-ed was often used to divert low-income or minority students away from a college education and toward low-paying fields that lacked opportunities for career advancement.

What researchers found were programs that served different populations but with shared challenges, among them, how to define the term “equity” in the first place and how to increase equity in both access and outcomes in the second place…..

…..As the brief noted, while practitioners in CTE “are making valiant efforts to invest in programs that can lead to productive careers and futures,” structural inequities loom that those practitioners may not be “equipped to address.” MDRC’s advice: With the help of researchers, incorporate equity goals into the evaluation of programs and develop and test equity-based interventions.

“Practitioner Perspectives on Equity in Career and Technical Education” is openly available on the MDRC website.

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