Career Connected Learning in Colorado: A Series of Impact Briefs & Policy Solutions

Colorado Succeeds believes every student in Colorado should graduate from high school with a diploma, a postsecondary credential with market value, and a high-quality career connected learning experience. Through policy and advocacy, we work to ensure all of Colorado’s students have access to a game-changing education.

How are we doing?

To help answer this question, Colorado Succeeds developed a series of impact briefs analyzing many of the programs currently focused on postsecondary credit opportunities and career connected learning in high school.  

Click on the boxes to learn more about how these programs are structured, who they are serving, insights on the learner perspective, and policy recommendations for consideration.

Where can we do better?

While numerous schools and districts are pursing postsecondary credit opportunities and career connected learning through initiatives like the Homegrown Talent Initiative, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), Early College High Schools, the Career Development Incentive Program, and other concurrent enrollment offerings, the recent Colorado Talent Pipeline report shows only 1 in 4 high school graduates immediately enrolls in postsecondary education and completes a credential six years later.  

This leaves a significant talent gap when you consider that 56.4 percent of Colorado’s top jobs require a credential past high school.  

While there are tremendous benefits to postsecondary credit in high school, the current system continues to present challenges to learners, including:  

  • Lack of equitable access to postsecondary credit and career connected learning opportunities, based on where the student is enrolled  
  • Lack of robust navigation and counseling supports to help learners and their families make informed decisions about pathways 
  • Limitations in the ability to transfer meaningful postsecondary credit earned in high school to degree pathways
Postsecondary Credit in High School Benefits Learners

Concurrent Enrollment pays off, but we need to prioritize high quality courses that are transferable and more equitably accessed by students, especially to underrepresented populations like students of color and low-income learners. Identified benefits include:  

  • Students who took Concurrent Enrollment classes were 50% more likely to attend college (Colorado Evaluation & Data Lab)   
  • Once in college, these students are more likely to graduate on time. Twenty-six percent (26%) of students who took Concurrent Enrollment classes graduated in four years versus 16% of those who did not. (Colorado Evaluation & Data Lab)  
  • These students earn more in their early careers. In their first five years after high school graduation, students who had taken Concurrent Enrollment classes earned 9.6% more per year than those who did not. (Colorado Evaluation & Data Lab) 
Expanding Career Connected Learning Opportunities Benefits Learners
  • Data shows thatcareer connected learning and career and technical educationare associated with gains in
    1. High school standardized testing scores and GPAs, 
    2. High school graduation rates, and  
    3. Several metrics of college and career readiness.

Where do we go from here?

The timing is right for this conversation. Colorado is embarking upon a two-year statewide taskforce process called the secondary, postsecondary, and career connected learning integration (“the blur”) taskforce. 

Sponsored by Rep. Julie McCluskie, Rep. Jen Bacon and Senator Jeff Bridges, HB22-1215 is the legislation that passed in 2022, authorizing the taskforce. It will include K-12, higher education, industry, CTE, and key state leaders to have a 2-year conversation with final recommendations expected by end of 2023. More information can be found here.

Want to learn more?

Contact info@coloradosucceeds.org to learn how you can follow the work of this taskforce and provide your own recommendations.

Acknowledgements

Colorado Succeeds wants to thank the many technical advisors across K-12, higher education, and the workforce who provided their insights and expertise, including Colorado Education Initiative, Empower Schools, Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative, Fremont Multi District Initiative, Center on Reinventing Public Education, Colorado Early Colleges, and the Hayden, South Routt, Greeley-Evans 6, Canon City, Holyoke, St. Vrain Valley, and Adams 12 school districts.