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#AskExcelinEd: How does Perkins V emphasize early college opportunities?


• Melissa Canney

ExcelinEd’s new brief Perkins V Reauthorization: Opportunities, Challenges and Risks for States identifies eight shifts Perkins V makes that present critical decision points for states pursuing high-quality CTE programs. In today’s post, ExcelinEd’s Melissa Canney examines the reauthorization’s emphasis on early college opportunities.


Perkins V emphasizes the importance of early college opportunities for high school students—or secondary-postsecondary opportunities—throughout the text of the law.

Early postsecondary opportunities, broadly defined, provide students with the opportunity to earn postsecondary credit or advanced postsecondary standing while in high school. They are designed to help students seamlessly transition between secondary and postsecondary, and could reduce the time and cost required to complete the postsecondary credentials (including industry certifications) valued in today’s labor market.

Perkins V and Early Postsecondary Opportunities 

Early postsecondary opportunities are encouraged in nearly every aspect of Perkins V. The U.S. Department of Education, states and local recipients are required to evaluate and report on the extent to which early postsecondary opportunities are available and effective within their systems. Additionally, one of the possible secondary core indicators of program quality is based on the percentage of CTE concentrators—students completing two or more courses in a CTE program—who leave high school with postsecondary credit.

Changes to allowable uses of state leadership funding expand states’ abilities to invest in the development and expansion of early postsecondary opportunities as part of CTE programs of study. Similarly, the list of required uses of local funds include activities that support the expansion of early postsecondary opportunities, including reducing the costs of such experiences for students who are part of special populations.

New Opportunities for States

ExcelinEd’s CTE Playbook series identifies several non-negotiables for high-quality CTE programs. These non-negotiables—including a clear connection to postsecondary credentialing and early postsecondary opportunities—play an integral role in ensuring these connections result in meaningful experiences that can accelerate student preparation for postsecondary and career.

States that have a clear, coherent vision for the role early postsecondary opportunities play in programs of study will be able to leverage the increased emphasis and flexibility related to early postsecondary opportunities under Perkins V. States that choose to invest Perkins funds in early postsecondary opportunities as part of career pathways should consider establishing criteria to ensure all early postsecondary opportunities are high-quality and transferrable to postsecondary institutions toward specific major/program requirements.

The inclusion of early postsecondary credit attainment as a secondary program quality indicator creates an incentive for states and districts to rapidly expand access to early postsecondary opportunities to ensure accountability goals are met. There is also an opportunity for many states to align this indicator with their ESSA accountability systems, in which attainment of dual credit hours and postsecondary credentials (among other elements) represent indicators of college and career readiness.

New Challenges for States

States that invest Perkins funds in expanding early postsecondary opportunities without a very clear, coherent strategy risk diminishing returns on the investment. Research has shown that the quality and transferability of early postsecondary experiences varies widely. This inconsistency can lead to duplication of coursework or losing tuition/exam fees for non-transferable coursework.

Students who earn credit that does not accelerate them along a program of study, such as a dual credit course, lose valuable time and money that could have been spent on acceleration through advanced coursework. States that do not establish clear criteria for high-quality early postsecondary opportunities risk forgoing opportunities for students to earn meaningful credit and complete their postsecondary credentials ahead of schedule.

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About the author


Melissa Canney

Melissa@ExcelinEd.org

Melissa Canney is the Director of Innovation Policy at ExcelinEd. She previously served as the Executive Director of Divisional Operations and Communications in the Division of College, Career and Technical Education at the Tennessee Department of Education. Melissa’s experience in Tennessee included policy analysis and implementation, communication strategy development, grant management and data analysis related to college and career readiness. A Vermont native, Melissa earned a B.A in Sociology from Stanford University and an M.P.P. in Education from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her dog Moxie.