Betsy DeVos’s Narrowing Path to Confirmation

February 3rd, 2017

On Tuesday the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee voted to advance Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, out of committee. The vote was narrowly decided along party lines with 12 Republicans voting for and 11 Democrats voting against her nomination.

Since then, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both announced they would not be voting for the nominee, putting Betsy DeVos’s nomination on very shaky ground. That leaves her with just 50 Republican votes, meaning the final decision may fall to Vice President Mike Pence, who casts a vote in the Senate in the event of a tie.

Shortly before the Senate HELP committee vote, DeVos released written responses to 139 questions from Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). Among them was a question related to reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). DeVos called Perkins reauthorization “an important priority,” and added that she aims to work with the HELP committee to update the law to “provide flexibility at the state and local levels” and “ support transparency of data so parents, students, and other taxpayers can see how well their programs are working.”

Early this morning, the Senate voted 52-48 to end cloture, a procedural hurdle that needed to be cleared before the Senate would be able to conduct the final vote on DeVos’s confirmation. The final vote is now scheduled for Monday, February 6.

Trump Appoints Jerry Falwell, Jr. to Task Force for Higher Education

According to the Chronicle for Higher Education, Jerry Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty University, will be advising the Trump administration on higher education policy. He was appointed this week to lead a task force that will study issues related to accreditation, student loan forgiveness, campus sexual assault and more. While Falwell’s positions on such issues are unclear, he has made statements indicating that he aims to scale back the role of the federal government in postsecondary education.

Meanwhile, Lots of Support for CTE on the Hill

Last week, House and Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs received a letter urging them to resume Perkins reauthorization. The letter, which was signed by 85 organizations and businesses, praised Perkins as a tool for meeting the needs of the 21st century economy and helping employers close critical skills gaps. Advance CTE was a co-signer of the letter.

Additionally, Senate Democrats last week introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that aims to create more than 15 million jobs. The bill is an attempt at bipartisanship in response to President Donald Trump’s comments, both on the campaign trail and during his inauguration, that rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure is a priority in the early months of his administration. Included in the bill is $75 billion for school construction projects, which will be disbursed to schools based on need.

In the House, Republicans introduced a resolution on Thursday under the 1996 Congressional Review Act to revoke Obama-era regulations for accountability and teacher preparation under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While the regulations were already frozen temporarily under a recent executive order from the White House, this resolution would revoke the regulations entirely. Further, President Trump’s administration would be prohibited from issuing “substantially similar” regulations, casting uncertainty over the future of ESSA implementation. The resolution must be approved by both the House and the Senate before going into effect.  

Finally, to help celebrate CTE month, the Senate CTE Caucus will be hosting an event that examines the role and impact of federal CTE policy.  Once this event is confirmed, we will share a link so you can participate virtually, as the event will be livestreamed.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate and Kimberly Green, Executive Director

President Trump’s First Week in Office

January 29th, 2017

Trump Freezes Pending Regulations, Including those Related to ESSA Accountability

President Donald J. Trump was sworn into office on Friday. During the inauguration ceremony, the President said the U.S. has “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge,” though he did not provide additional details about his plans for improving the federal education system.

Upon taking office, Trump immediately revoked any regulations not yet submitted to the Federal Register and postponed the effective date of pending regulations by 60 days. This echoes a similar move from the Obama administration in early 2009. Although the most recent round of ESSA regulations, which detail accountability and state plans, were published in November 2016, they were not set to take effect until January 30. As a result, those regulations will now go into effect on March 21, 2017. While this could implicate ESSA plan submissions, state officials and consultants do not anticipate the pause will affect state timelines, according to Education Week.

President Trump has also hinted that he wants to reduce federal regulations by 75 percent, though he has not indicated where these reductions will come from.

Lastly, positions at the White House are starting to be filled. Rob Goad, a former staff with Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) has been selected to fill the position of Education Advisor at the Office of Domestic Policy Council.  The Education Advisor position is not a “required” position, so the fact that the position has been filled early on is a potential signal of the administration’s intent to develop education policy priorities.

DeVos Vote Rescheduled to January 31

Last week we provided an overview of Education Secretary to be Betsy DeVos’s hearing with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. While questions related to Career Technical Education (CTE) or reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act of 2006 were limited, the hearing turned out to be quite contentious, with Democrats protesting the limited time to review the nominee’s ethics report prior to a confirmation vote. Responding to concerns from his committee, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) postponed DeVos’s hearing by one week to Tuesday, January 31 to allow Senators additional time to review the Office of Government Ethics’ report. On Friday, Senator Todd Young (R-IN)  recused himself from voting on the DeVos confirmation, citing a conflict of interest because she donated to his campaign.

Senators Kaine and Portman Reintroduce JOBS Act

On the Hill, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), co-chairs of the Senate CTE Caucus, reintroduced the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students Act of 2017 (JOBS Act). The bill aims to expand the Federal Pell Grant program to include postsecondary CTE job training programs in in-demand industries. Under the bill, such programs must provide no less than 150 clock hours of instructional time over eight weeks and enable students to obtain a license or credential. Advance CTE has endorsed the proposed legislation.

WIOA Infrastructure Guidance

On January 18, 2017, Former Acting Assistant Secretary John Uvin, put out an extensive memo articulating additional information related to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) infrastructure guidance. While the memo was directed to State Directors of Adult Education, Perkins is mentioned throughout. Advance CTE is in the process of analyzing the memo and will provide a more in depth analysis to members next week. We should note that it is unclear whether any of the non-regulatory guidance put forth by the Obama Administration will hold, given the Trump Administration’s push to reduce federal oversight and burden on states by reducing regulations.  

Austin Estes, Policy Associate and Kimberly Green, Executive Director

CTE Remained a Priority for State Policymakers in 2016

January 25th, 2017

Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Release Annual State Policies Impacting CTE: Year in Review, Highlighting State Policy Trends from 2016

Supporting and strengthening high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) remains a priority for state policymakers, according to a new report from Advance CTE and ACTE. The report, State Policies Impacting CTE: 2016 Year in Review, is the fourth annual policy scan highlighting state activity. Below are some key takeaways from the report.

More States Passed CTE-Related Policies in 2016 than the Year Before

In recent years, both state and national policymakers have demonstrated a growing interest in strengthening career readiness systems through legislation, executive orders, rulemaking, budget provisions and ballot initiatives. In 2016, states continued that trend, completing a total of 139 policy actions across 42 states. This is a slight increase over 2015, when 39 states passed a total of 125 policies.

This activity reflects that states are increasingly buying into the notion that alternative pathways such as two-year degrees, apprenticeships and industry-recognized credentials can lead to high-wage, high-demand careers. This is fueled in part by national initiatives such as the New Skills for Youth initiative, Pathways to Prosperity and the National Governors Association’s Talent Pipeline Policy academy, which each aim to catalyze the transformation of career preparation in states.

Funding Remains the Most Popular Policy Category for the Fourth Year

Funding was the leading category of policies passed in 2016, consistent with the past four years. Related policies this year include new grant initiatives such as the Strong Workforce Grant in California, which provides $200 million in noncompetitive funding to strengthen workforce development programs in California community colleges, and Massachusetts’ Workforce Skills Capital Grant Program. Last year also saw the restoration of funding for the Arizona Joint Technical Education Districts after a $29 million cut in 2015.

Other extant trends from the past year include policies related to industry partnerships and work-based learning; dual and concurrent enrollment, articulation and early college; and industry-recognized credentials.

States Are Gearing up for ESSA Implementation

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was signed into law in December, 2015 and includes numerous opportunities for states to accelerate work around CTE and career readiness. While most states spent 2016 engaging various stakeholder groups and developing draft plans to implement the law, some states took initial steps to pass policies in support of implementation. West Virginia and Oklahoma, for example, each adopted accountability systems that recognize and value career preparation. West Virginia’s accountability system includes an indicator that recognizes the percentage of 12th grade CTE concentrators, while Oklahoma adopted a “Postsecondary Opportunity” indicator that includes dual credit coursework, internships, apprenticeships and industry certifications.

Successful Ballot Initiatives Demonstrate Voter Support for CTE

Several states saw and passed initiatives related to CTE on the November ballot. In Oregon, voters approved Measure 98, which establishes the College and Career Readiness Fund and directs the legislature to allocate $800 per pupil to establish and expand new programs, including CTE. Meanwhile, Arkansas voted to legalize medical marijuana and subject sale of the drug to state and local sales tax. Under the approved amendment, 60 percent of the revenue generated through the sale of medical marijuana will go to support skills development and training. South Dakota voters also approved a measure that directs the legislature to restructure the way the state technical colleges are governed and remove authority from the Board of Regents.

2016 saw growing momentum in support of CTE at the state level, and this year’s activity tees 2017 up to be an important year for CTE and career readiness in the U.S. We anticipate states will continue the work started in 2016 by picking up legislation introduced in 2016, adopting new strategies to implement federal legislation and beginning the work of implementing policies passed in 2016.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Betsy DeVos on CTE: Students Need to Have a Full Menu of Options

January 18th, 2017

On Friday, Donald Trump is scheduled to be sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. While the Senate has yet to hold a floor vote to confirm any of the President-elect’s cabinet nominees, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing Tuesday evening for Mrs. Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education.

While much remains unknown about President-Elect Trump’s education agenda and his priorities for the coming year, during her opening statement DeVos stated that we need to “embrace new pathways of learning,” by “support[ing] all postsecondary avenues, including trade and vocational schools and community colleges.”

Later in the hearing, Sen. Tim Scott (R-NC) pressed her again on increasing flexibility for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. A lifelong advocate for student choice, DeVos responded that “students really need to have a full menu of options,” including “technical schools, community colleges [and] apprenticeships.”

DeVos is not new to CTE. She and her husband Richard “Dick” DeVos Jr., billionaire entrepreneur and heir to the Amway enterprise, co-founded an aviation-themed charter school in Grand Rapids, MI. West Michigan Aviation Academy opened in 2010 and includes a rigorous curriculum that integrates both academic and technical education. According to the school’s website, Aviation Academy also hosts regular job shadowing events, during which industry professionals come to campus to speak with and mentor students.

The hearing was not without disagreements, however. While Republicans on the HELP Committee largely praised DeVos’s philanthropic background and advocacy for school choice, Senate Democrats pressed her on outstanding conflicts of interest (DeVos has yet to disclose all of her financial engagements to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics) and her position on issues such as accountability, campus sexual assault and guns in schools.  

A confirmation vote is tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday, though Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) assured concerned Democrats on the Committee that they will have an opportunity to submit additional questions to DeVos prior to that date. He also said he would delay the vote if DeVos’s ethics review letter is not available from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics by that time.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

American Students Demonstrate Lackluster Performance on International PISA Exam, but Signal Interest in Science-Related Careers

December 9th, 2016

Earlier this week, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) released results from the 2015 international PISA examination. The examination, which is administered every three years by the OECD, is designed to measure science, reading and math literacy for 15-year-olds in 35 OECD member countries in order to identify trends in student achievement and provide recommendations for international education policy. Each administration of the exam focuses on a different content area, and the emphasis for the 2015 exam was science literacy.

Performance in the United States was lackluster at best, with students placing 19th in science, 20th in reading and 31st in math compared to 34 other OECD countries. While there has been relatively no change in performance for science and reading over the past two iterations of the exam, math scores have fallen 11 points since 2012.

In response to this year’s assessment results, the OECD released five recommendations for policymakers in the U.S. to improve teaching and learning and promote equity:

  1. A clear education strategy to improve performance and equity should be implemented.
  2. Rigorous and consistent standards should be applied across all classrooms.
  3. Teacher and school leader capacity should be improved.
  4. Resources should be distributed equitably across schools – preferentially to those schools and students that need them most.
  5. At-risk students and schools should be proactively targeted.

 

These results are sobering, but they also spark a renewed urgency to improve the quality of education and leverage opportunities such as Career Technical Education (CTE) to equip students with academic and workforce-relevant skills and set the national economy on track for future growth.

Student Performance and Economic Growth

Performance on the PISA exam serves not only as a signal of student academic achievement, but also of career readiness. This is a research focus of Eric Hanushek’s, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In a recent panel discussion with the Alliance for Excellent Education, he argued that academic performance is tightly related to a country’s future economic health. Using PISA performance as a proxy for educational quality, Hanushek finds a positive correlation between international performance and future GDP growth. In other words, the more students learn, the stronger the economy is likely to be in the future. He also uses scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a U.S.-administered assessment, to find a similar relationship across individual states.

However, Hanushek makes sure not to conflate educational quality with quantity. He runs the same analysis using years of educational attainment instead of PISA scores and finds almost no relationship with economic growth. He draws the conclusion that “if you have more education without developing the skills, it doesn’t count.” This conclusion echoes a finding from this year’s PISA that, in terms of science literacy performance, how science is taught is a more important factor than investments in equipment and highly-qualified instructional staff. In the intersection between education and economic growth, it is not the inputs that matter as much as the skills, knowledge and abilities students develop along the way.

Students Signal High Interest in Science-Related Careers

In addition to testing subject literacy, the PISA examination surveys student attitudes and career preferences. Interestingly, the 2015 survey found that 38 percent of American 15-year-olds expect to work in a science-related career field by the age of 30, with health and science and engineering the two most prominent industries of interest, demonstrating that high school students are putting consideration into their future career goals. 

One strategy to prepare students for future careers in science is to increase participation in related programs of study. Programs of study guide learners through a sequence of aligned, non-duplicative courses that integrate academic and technical learning, span secondary and postsecondary systems and culminate in a credential of value. Participating in a program of study enables students to focus in a Career ClusterⓇ of interest and develop the skills and experiences they need to be successful in that industry. Rather than sampling a basket of different electives without developing depth of experience in any, program of study concentrators go deep in their learning. And research indicates that this could lead to positive student outcomes. According to a recent study, participating in a program of study increases the likelihood of graduation, overall grade point average and CTE grade point average. At scale, increased participation in programs of study may lead to increased academic performance and career readiness, spurring future economic growth.

With the release of the 2015 international PISA exam scores, there is newfound urgency to improve the quality of learning and increase opportunities for students to learn workforce-relevant skills, particularly in science-related fields. By leveraging high-quality programs of study, education policymakers can prepare students for future careers and spur national economic growth.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

States Continue to Make Progress on ESSA Implementation

December 6th, 2016

Last week we provided an update on new federal regulations clarifying the implementation timeline and requirements for the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Of note was the decision to delay the submission deadline for state plans to afford state agencies more time to meaningfully engage and gather input from stakeholders. This has been a priority activity for many states over the past several months. As state agencies have worked to draft and finalize their ESSA plans, many have made use of surveys, focus groups and listening tours to gather feedback from students, parents, educators and other relevant stakeholders.

To date, draft ESSA state plans are available for public comment in 10 states (though several others have released draft components): Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Washington. At this point, several states have proposed strategies to leverage ESSA’s accountability requirements to encourage and expand quality career pathways through a College and Career Readiness indicator (CCR). California is a notable example, having adopted a such a system in September, though other states are considering this as well.

Based on feedback from stakeholders, Delaware proposed a “College and Career Preparation” indicator that includes the percent of students demonstrating postsecondary preparation through CTE pathway completion, dual enrollment, and other academic indicators such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and SAT exam scores. Additionally, Oklahoma’s state plan proposes using industry credential attainment, along with AP/IB, as one measure of student access to postsecondary opportunity. And in South Carolina, the Department of Education designed its ESSA plan around a 90 percent college and and career readiness goal for graduating students by 2030. As an interim measure of progress towards this goal, the plan proposes adopting a “Prepared for Success” indicator that measures high school students’ scores on WorkKeys assessments, participation in Youth Apprenticeships, completion of state-approved CTE pathways and industry credential attainment. This list is by no means exhaustive, but nonetheless provides a snapshot of how some states are approaching this opportunity.

Other states have found opportunities to prioritize career readiness strategies throughout the ESSA planning process. For example:TN ESSA

  • In response to its cross-state listening tour, Tennessee released an update on its ESSA plan development, reporting that one of the priority themes from the listening tour was creating a bridge to postsecondary. As such, Tennessee aims to leverage its ESSA planning to encourage and expand access to early postsecondary opportunities, including industry credentials and postsecondary credit attainment.
  • In compliance with ESSA’s requirement of challenging state standards and assessments, the Montana State Board of Education in November approved an updated standards review schedule to ensure that standards in specific program areas are regularly reviewed and revised. The first cycle of review, beginning in 2016, will examine standards for CTE, Digital Literacy, and Computer Science.
  • Washington State’s plan proposes utilizing the state’s High School and Beyond Plan as a strategy to support student learning and achievement. Students develop their High School and Beyond Plans in middle school with support from family members and school based counselors. The Plan identifies the student’s interests and abilities and defines a plan that is linked to his or her career goals.

With ESSA state plans due to be submitted in 2017, many states have yet to formalize their strategies under the new K-12 education law. Advance CTE  will monitor state plans and proposals as they are released to share emerging strategies and opportunities to leverage the law to advance career readiness and CTE as ESSA continues to be implemented over the coming years.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Road to ESSA Implementation: USDE Publishes Final Regs and Provides more Guidance

December 1st, 2016

United States CapitalEarlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a new batch of final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—bipartisan legislation that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). These rules cover the law’s accountability, reporting, and state planning provisions of ESSA and come on the heels of an earlier— and highly controversial— set of proposed regulations for the law’s so-called “supplement-not-supplant” provisions.

While final rules for ESSA’s supplement-not-supplant provisions are still being worked out, this week’s set of final regulations make a number of important changes to the draft version released earlier this summer.

In many respects these final rules stipulate a more realistic timeline for the law’s implementation. For instance, states now have until the 2018-19 academic year to identify the lowest 5 percent of schools— schools that would then be eligible for comprehensive improvement under ESSA— whereas before that requirement would have gone into effect in the 2017-18 school year under the earlier proposal. Similarly, state ESSA plans are now due by April 3 or September 18, 2017 in order to give state education agencies more time to meaningfully engage stakeholders ahead of the law’s accountability system going into effect (another aspect of ESSA that will not be fully implemented until the 2018-19 school year).

Of particular note for the CTE community are other rule changes governing the law’s accountability system, specifically the new ESSA requirement that state accountability systems include at least one non-academic measure of school quality or student success which, under ESSA, may include measures of career readiness. Under the earlier draft version these additional indicators would have needed to be supported by research finding that “performance or progress” on the measure increases student academic achievement or graduation rates. Advance CTE, along with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) urged USDE to broaden this standard slightly to ensure that a greater number of high-quality career readiness indicators could be incorporated into states’ new ESSA accountability systems.

Encouragingly USDE heeded this suggestion and the final rule now requires that such measures, “increase student learning, such as grade point average, credit accumulation, or performance in advanced coursework, or for high schools, graduation rates, postsecondary enrollment, persistence, or completion, or career success.” A summary of these final rules are available here and the full document can be found here.

On Capitol Hill, the new ESSA regulations were met with mixed reactions.  Referencing the powers at his disposal via the Congressional Review Act—a law that would allow the Republican controlled Congress next year to throw out the proposal entirely— Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he, “will carefully review this final version before deciding what action is appropriate.” Ranking Members of the Senate and House Education Committees, Patty Murray (D-WA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) issued a more supportive statement saying, in part, “While we are disappointed that this final rule doesn’t go as far as we would have hoped, we commend the Department of Education for listening to stakeholders . . . This rule will provide states and school districts with much needed stability and clarity as they work to submit state plans and implement statewide accountability systems.”

In other ESSA-related news, USDE recently released new non-regulatory guidance for states and local districts to support the law’s ongoing roll-out. These releases covered topics ranging from meeting the law’s new English Language Learner requirements under Title III, guidance for how to effectively use ESSA Title II funding to support teachers and high-quality instruction, and additional guidance aimed at helping states and districts provide a “well-rounded education” under Title IV of the new law.

Be sure to check back here next week for another update on states’ efforts to implement ESSA.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Election 2016 Update

November 10th, 2016

United States CapitalAmerica went to the polls on Tuesday and, in what was a surprise turn of events for many, Donald Trump won the race for President of the United States. The Senate, which many were closely watching to see if it would flip towards Democratic control, will retain a slim (51 votes) GOP majority. Republicans also defended their majority in the House of Representatives, retaining 239 seats in total (218 are needed for control of the chamber). Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, is expected to return to the Senate and continue on in his current role as co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus.

At present, it is still difficult to predict a Trump Administration’s education priorities, as it was not a primary focus of the candidates on the campaign trail. The President-elect recently created a transition page, which can be viewed here, articulating some of the broader education policy goals of his new administration. Trump has also expressed enthusiasm for returning more control over education to state and local entities while calling  for the elimination or dramatic downsizing of the U.S. Department of Education. Along with these wider policy pronouncements Trump has also voiced support for “vocational training” while on the campaign trail. The Vice President Elect, Mike Pence, also has had a track record of support for Career Technical Education (CTE) in his home state of Indiana (read more on that here).

In addition to these revelations at the federal level, there was also quite a lot of state-level CTE policy of note on this year’s ballot:

  • In California, voters approved a $9 billion bond to create the 2016 State School Facilities Fund, directing money to fund school construction and modernization projects across the state. A sum of $500 million from the fund will be appropriated for updating CTE program facilities. The measure passed despite criticism from California Governor Jerry Brown, who called the investment large and inefficient.
  • A measure in Oklahoma that would have levied a one-cent sales tax to increase revenue for public education and teacher salaries was rejected. The proposal included a 3.25 percent allocation to the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, which amounted to approximately $20 million.
  • Oregon voters passed Measure 98 to establish a College and Career Readiness fund. The measure calls on the state legislature to allocate $800 per pupil, which can be used to establish and expand CTE programs, college-level educational opportunities (including dual credit programs), and dropout prevention programs in high schools.
  • And South Dakota voted to amend the state constitution and allow the state technical college system to be governed separately from the Board of Regents. Under Constitutional Amendment R, the legislature will now determine a new governance structure for the state’s four technical institutes.

As things continue to evolve in the capitol, Advance CTE will continue to educate new policymakers regarding the value of supporting high-quality CTE. Be sure to check back here as events continue to take shape.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager & Austin Estes, Policy Associate 

How Do States Identify and Endorse Industry-Recognized Credentials?

October 7th, 2016

Credentials_of_Value_2016Latest Advance CTE Brief Explores Promising Strategies

One of the core components of a high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) program is that it culminates in a credential of value. But with more than 4,000 credentialing organizations in the United States today, states are grappling with the challenge of narrowing down the field.

Advance CTE today released a policy brief to help states get started in this work. The paper, titled “Credentials of Value: State Strategies for Identifying and Endorsing Industry-Recognized Credentials,” highlights promising practices from Florida, Kansas and Louisiana, which have each made considerable progress developing a system for students and employers to navigate the tangled universe of credentials. The brief further describes how each state tackles the challenge in a different way, building a system that suits their local economy and context, and highlights a few common strategies.

For one, these states engage business and industry leaders early on in the process to verify that credentials are recognized and accepted in the labor market. This helps ensure that students are only pursuing — and states are only incentivizing — those credentials that have value. One example that the brief explores is in Louisiana, where regional teams are required to submit letters of endorsement from businesses in the state whenever they propose a new credential for the statewide list.

From there, the process of vetting high-quality credentials often involves a concerted effort from a variety of different institutions. The brief describes how, in Florida, the state-approved credential list at the secondary level is developed with input from the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, the state’s workforce development board (an independent non-profit called CareerSource Florida) and the Department of Education. This ensures that the state can leverage the expertise of each agency to approve only those credentials that are valuable to students and to the economy.

Another challenge the brief explores is that credentials available on the market today range in value, quality and the effort required to earn them. Thus, states have begun to recognize this difference and classify credentials based on their rigor and utility in the labor market. Kansas, for example, is examining a framework that categorizes credentials into three tiers: those required by law or regulation, those mandated by industry, and those preferred by industry.

Even then, states should be prepared to adapt to fluctuations in the labor market or unforeseen problems with the credential review process. Take Florida’s Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE) for example. CAPE provided additional funding for teachers and school districts whose students earn state-approved credentials, but the state soon realized that the program was not structured appropriately to eliminate some gaming of the funding incentive. Over the years, Florida has gradually adjusted the funding formula to address these concerns and align incentives to encourage more students to earn high-quality credentials.

With two-thirds of all new jobs projected to require some postsecondary education and training by 2020, there is a growing need for states to play a larger role in identifying and endorsing credentials of value.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

As States Complete Listening Tours, Early ESSA Plans Show Opportunities to Expand CTE

September 28th, 2016

LA MeetingsIn the nine months since President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law last December, states and policymakers have been hard at work digging through the legislation and deciding how to structure their new plans. ESSA, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, presents a number of opportunities to expand access to high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE). As states prepare to implement the law next year, we will provide periodic updates on their progress and share strategies for leveraging ESSA to support CTE at the state level.

Early Drafts and Proposals from the States

Most states this summer have been gathering input from stakeholders on their ESSA implementation plans as required by the new law. While many are still completing their listening tours (you can find an overview here), a few states have released draft proposals:

  • Illinois recently released a draft of its state plan, which State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith offered as a “work in progress.” The plan describes how Illinois’ secondary CTE system, which is supported, in part, with funds from the Carl D. Parkins Act, aligns with ESSA’s new focus on a ‘well-rounded education’ — a key concept in the new law includes CTE as part of the statutory definition. The state Board of Education also adopted a framework for a college and career readiness indicator, including such components as industry credential attainment, work-based learning participation, and postsecondary credit attainment. It is yet to be determined if the framework will be included in the state’s broader, multi-indicator system of accountability. Illinois plans to conduct 14 listening sessions in September and October, after which time the state will revise and publish an updated state plan later this fall.
  • After much deliberation, the California Board of Education approved a new accountability system earlier this month, adopting an indicator for college and career readiness. The indicator allows schools to count students completing a CTE pathway, although the overall score will not differentiate these students from those meeting other college and career readiness indicators such as earning a passing score on an Advanced Placement exam. The accountability system lacks criteria to measure students who are “well-prepared” for college and careers. Meanwhile, Governor Brown vetoed a bill that would have revised the accountability system to place more weight on test scores.
  • Louisiana released a summary report from its listening tour this summer, providing parents, educators and other education stakeholders an overview of progress towards a new state plan. Suggestions under consideration include incentivizing and rewarding schools for students earning industry-recognized credentials, partnering with business and industry to recruit teachers with industry experience, and providing students more opportunities to enroll in postsecondary education and training during their senior year. It is important to note that Louisiana is still considering these recommendations for the purposes of their forthcoming final plan.
  • Finally, Arizona released a draft state plan for residents of the state to review. While the draft is preliminary, Superintendent Diane Douglas promises the final version will align with the state’s AZ Kids Can’t Wait! Plan, which is currently undergoing updates. The state is receiving feedback through both public meetings and the Department of Education’s website, and plans to release an updated version in mid-October.

Department of Education Releases Guidance on “Evidence-Based” Strategies

ESSA provides states more flexibility to select a turnaround strategy for struggling schools, as long as the intervention is evidence-based. In keeping up with this requirement, the U.S. Department of Education released non-regulatory guidance to help state and local leaders identify and implement evidence-based turnaround strategies. Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) highlighted the potential for CTE to be included in this part of ESSA implementation in formal comments to ED this summer.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Education Sciences updated the What Works Clearinghouse to allow users to search for evidence-based strategies by school characteristics, grade span, demographics and more.

Tackling Accountability: Helpful Resources for Selecting a College and Career Readiness Indicator

college ready plusA new paper from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation offers a framework for a  “College Ready Plus” indicator that evaluates students’ postsecondary preparation using measures such as work-based learning and attainment of an industry-recognized credential. The paper describes the role that employers can play in helping states adopt and implement a career readiness indicator.

The American Institutes of Research developed a policy framework to help states align their visions for college and career readiness with requirements and opportunities under ESSA. The brief focuses on the law’s three most salient policy components related to college and career readiness: well-rounded education, multiple-measure accountability systems and purposeful assessments.

Also helpful: a policy paper from the Learning Policy Institute that takes advantage of the ESSA policy window to propose a new model for accountability. The paper offers three potential career readiness indicators — CTE pathway completion, work-based learning and industry-recognized credentials — and discusses strategies for collecting and presenting data in a way that supports continuous improvement.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

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