Promoting Equitable Practice in the Delivery of Career and Technical Education
By Shannon Baker
In the world of K-12 education, those participating in providing career counseling to students must work to ensure equitable practices are being implemented. Career coaches and counselors can sometimes find themselves with unintended biases through exclusionary languages while providing career counseling to students. For example, counselors may steer students out of careers due to physical or other disabilities. This can, in turn, cause students to impose limits on themselves as to what they can accomplish due to their differences. The National Career Development Association, Facilitating Career Development Student Manual (FCDS) states “as professionals, counselors have the legal and ethical obligation to treat people equitably and not let our biases color our ability to provide services” (NCDA, 2017). There are several ways to curb biased practices while delivering career development services to students. Currently, applicable federal laws are the first place to start by providing counselors with self-reflection questions that proceed out of these laws to increase counselors’ awareness of legally appropriate counseling practices.
Overview of Applicable Laws
There are civil rights laws enforced by the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for schools that are recipients of federal monies. The laws protect students and employees from being excluded from participating in, being denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Civil rights laws addressed are as follows:
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, or national origin);
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex);
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Guarantees rights to people with disabilities);
- Vocational Educational Programs Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sex, and Disability (Explains the civil rights responsibilities of recipients of Federal funds offering or administering vocational education programs);
- Vocational Guidelines derive from and provide guidance supplementary to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973).
The Section V (Counseling and Prevocational Programs) of the Vocational Educational Programs Guidelines provides a holistic view of career counseling practices while supporting previous civil rights laws noted.
Students and Career-Based Opportunities
When students are being offered career-based opportunities, it is the responsibility of the counselor to make sure that counseling materials, promotional activities and recruitment efforts are not discriminatory. To do this, counselors should ask themselves the following questions when planning career-based opportunities for students:
- Are print materials, such as brochures, pamphlets and posters, geared to all populations of students? Can materials be viewed as discriminatory based on race, color, national origin, sex and/or disability?
- Do career events and job fairs promote diverse employment opportunities to students? Will students have a chance to interact with employers that may be underrepresented in their career field due to their race, color, national origin, sex and/or disability?
- Are print and electronic recruitment materials available to those who are visually or hearing impaired?
- Are nondiscrimination statements visibly articulated through print and electronic recruitment materials?
When students are being advised by counselors during the process of enrolling in courses or programs focusing on a specific career path, a variety of counseling tools should be presented to help students make a decision. For example, if a counselor is counseling a student who may have some impairment, such as an ambulatory impairment, that student should not be only given a job shadow day at a local dentist’s office to assess an interest in a career in dental hygiene. This could discourage the student from taking courses or participating in program areas that may lead to a career in that particular area. Other tools such as video tours or telephone interviews would be more encouraging.
When scheduling students for classes, disproportionate enrollment based on race, color, national origin, sex or disability can occur. Many times it is as a result of having no set protocol in place for enrolling students in courses.
When local institutions develop Career and Technical Education (CTE) program offerings and course schedules, counselors should consider the following:
- When conducting career assessments with students, am I offering career counseling tools that cater to all learning styles and abilities? Do I have different types of career assessments based on my audience?
- Am I intentional about making sure that all career-based opportunities are promoted to all students despite any disability?
- Does my institution have a process in place when disproportionate enrollment in courses, such as CTE, honors, and advanced placement (AP) occurs?
- Are my counseling practices steering students into or out of courses based on their race, color, national origin, sex or disability?
Students and Course Selections
When students are recruited for course offerings and programs, such as honors and advanced placement courses, the process should be objective not subjective. When planning student recruitment activities, counselors should consider the following:
- Are students and parents educated on all course offerings, allowing them to determine placement of the student despite the rigor of the course? Do counseling practices insure that students are not “steered” toward or from a course or program?
- Are translated materials pertaining to course offerings and programs available to those students and parents that may be limited English proficient? Visually or hearing impaired?
- Are promotional materials and verbiage free of cultural biases?
- Do promotional materials include pictures/illustrations portraying both male and female students with disabilities?
According to a research study by Borchert (2002), if career counseling were implemented efficiently, students would at the very least be following a career plan of informed decision-making, rather than one of happenstance. Throughout this article, a few questions are suggested for counselors to ponder as they proceed with counseling students into career paths and course selections. The goal is to provide students with ample information allowing them to make an informed as well as an independent choice regarding the course selection and career path.
Borchert, M. (December 2002). Career choice factors of high school students. Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/5066035.pdf
National Career Development Association. (2017). Facilitating Career Development – Student Manual. Broken Arrow, OK: author.
Shannon Baker is an education consultant and Business and Marketing Education instructor in the state of North Carolina. She is a partner with KB Consulting Group, L. L. C., which specializes in educational and corporate professional development, with a focus on equitable leadership practices. Shannon attained her Bachelors’ and Masters’ Degrees from North Carolina State University in Business and Marketing Education. Her professional affiliations include: NCDA Career Development Facilitator Instructor; Member of Association of Career and Technical Educators (ACTE); Board member for the North Carolina ACTE; Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) Alumni; National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). To learn more information about services provided by KB Consulting Group or to contact Shannon, she can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org.