Unlocking Opportunities: Supporting English Learners’ Equitable Access to Career and Technical Education

Julie Sugarman
Date of Publication: 
April, 2023
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

Based on an extensive literature review and interviews with state and local Career and Technical Education (CTE) leaders in four states, this wide-ranging report looks at challenges facing English learners (ELs) in accessing the widely recognized benefits of K-12 CTE programs, and how states and localities can support students and schools in this process. ELs, who have among the lowest average 4-year high school graduation rates, stand particularly to gain from CTE programs in meeting expectations of “college and career readiness” and persisting in school until graduation. The 2018 reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act (the primary source of CTE funding) set stricter requirements to foster and track the participation of special populations in CTE programs, including ELs. In most states, ELs are enrolled in CTE in proportion to their share of the population. But lack of local data makes it hard to gauge which individual schools or districts face under- or over-enrollment, and whether various subgroups of ELs are proportionally benefitting from CTE instruction. Challenges schools and EL students face include the complexity of scheduling CTE courses around existing academic and remedial course requirements, obstacles to completing required sequences of CTE courses towards industry credentials, and lack of understanding of ELs by CTE instructors. Among recommendations in the report offers are: required training of CTE instructors in issues facing ELs, co-teaching by English language instructors and CT specialists that can meet the needs of both content areas, better coordination of services by CTE instructors, English language staff, and school counselors, and more direct support by EL departments using their own available resources around careers and workforce training. Schools, the report suggests, can also work with adult education and workforce programs to provide access to additional training and job opportunities, and provide more flexibly scheduled learning opportunities for working students, as well as giving students work-based learning credit for jobs they already have. With schools focused on an equitable post-pandemic recovery, the report concludes, such strategies can help meet educational goals for all students. (Jeffrey Gross, Ph.D.)

Download now or view online.


Sugarman, J. (2023, April). Unlocking Opportunities: Supporting English Learners’ Equitable Access to Career and Technical Education. Migration Policy Institute. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/english-learners-career-technic...