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National Association of State Directors of Career
Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

CTE Research Review

August 7th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013Research has shown time and again that finishing what you start in higher education is key to higher lifetime potential earnings, gainful employment and much more. Most researchers use the term, “some college” for students who enrolled in college but left without receiving a degree or certificate, but what does this enigmatic term really mean?

Though this category includes 31 million students over the past 20 years, little is known about the students themselves. The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) takes a closer look at who makes up this group with its new report, “Some College, No Degree: A National View of Students with Some College Enrollment, but No Completion”.

Through national data on enrollments over time and across institutions, NSC was able to dig deeper than most reports, which traditionally survey a representative sample of adults. By using data, NSC excluded those who earned degrees or certificates and analyzed the enrollment pathways of the “some college” population.

In particular, the report focuses largely on two groups of students: those who had enrolled in multiple institutions, and “potential completers” — those with at least two full academic years’ worth of college.

The NSC researchers believe that potential completers should be at the center of the discussion about improving postsecondary completion rates. They say that policies still need to be tailored to fit their needs as older students returning to education after a period of extended absence from the system.

Most potential completers tend to be between 24 and 29 years old. Although women are slightly more represented overall in this group, men somewhat outnumber women within the 24-29 age bracket who have been out of the higher education system for two to six years. More than one in four potential completers enrolled continuously or intermittently for seven years or longer and their enrollment histories are equally split among two- and four-year institutions. These demographics, the researchers say, have unique needs that educators and policymakers need to address to bring these students back into schools and get them to graduation.

To learn more about the “some college group” including important policy recommendations, be sure to check out the full report.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

August 1st, 2014

Research Image_6.2013As terms such as “data-driven” dominate discussions of student educational outcomes, a new report shines a light on the challenges of data collection within the Career Technical Education (CTE) system.

Data collection is a key mandate of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 as a means to hold state and local grantees accountable for achieving positive student outcomes, but grantees often face difficulty meeting these requirements due to a variety of external factors.

The report, titled, “Assessing the Education and Employment Outcomes of Career and Technical Education Students,” argues that additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and future legislation from Congress can help grantees generate valid, reliable and comparable state data. NASDCTEc’s Executive Director Kimberly Green authored the paper with Steve Klein, director of the Center for Career & Adult Education and Workforce Development at RTI International, and consultant Jay Pfeiffer.

The authors offer five recommendations for improving outcomes reporting:

  • Integrate CTE into state longitudinal data systems;
  • Promote state use of national data repositories;
  • Identify indicators of transition that promote federal policies;
  • Establish regulations governing placement; and
  • Provide states with reporting alternatives.

To learn more about data collection options, the challenges CTE grantees face in obtaining reliable data and more, be sure to check out the full report.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

College and Career Readiness in Context

August 1st, 2014

The College and Career Readiness and Success Center recently released a report that provides an important overview of every state’s college and career readiness definitions. It found that 37 states, including the District of Columbia, have defined college and career readiness; 15 states including Puerto Rico have none or are juggling multiple definitions.

While these definitions may “yield insight into state priorities and nationwide trends,” the report focuses exclusively on definitions, and does not examine the value and weight being given to college and career readiness within a state. In fact, when taking a closer look at a state’s public report cards and accountability systems, the story still appears to be college or career readiness with the focus of career readiness often being limited to a subset of students.

A recent report from NASDCTEc and Achieve titled, “Making Career Readiness Count,” found that although definitions abound for college and career readiness, only a few states are paving the way with comprehensive frameworks for public reporting and/or accountability formulas that encourages both college and career readiness.

Although 29 states publicly report at least one career-ready indicator, there could be a consequence – unintended or not – of siloing students and fields by developing a narrower approach to college- and career-ready indicators. A one-dimensional approach to college- and career-ready indicators could incentivize schools and districts to help students meet college or career ready benchmarks rather than a more comprehensive set.

When looking to improve existing public reporting and accountability systems, states should consider an expanded framework for college and career readiness indicators, thus ensuring that they are measuring whether all students are ready for both college and career, rather than just a subset of students.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

The Common Career Technical Core, Programs of Study & Industry-Based Standards

July 30th, 2014

Yesterday, NASDCTEc released a new paper – The Common Career Technical Core, Programs of Study & Industry-Based Standards - during a webinar. Leveraging the methodology used to compare over 45 states’ CTE standards to the Common Career Technical Core (CCTC) last year for The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of State CTE Standards, this new paper examines how a set of 18 industry-based standards match up to the CCTC, with deep implications for state and local development of standards-based programs of study.

Critically, as we state in the paper, “The intent of this analysis is not to judge any industry-based standards…rather the intent is provide actionable information to state and local CTE leaders as think through how they use industry-based standards within the context of a program of study.”

What Did We Find?

For one, the industry-based standards, on average, were not particularly well aligned with the CCTC. However, this was largely as expected based on scope and design of the CCTC compared to most industry-based standards. The CCTC are benchmark standards that identify what a student should know and be able to do after completing a program of study. As “benchmark standards,” the CCTC are intentionally broad; as “end of program of study standards,” the CCTC cover the full range of knowledge and skills to be imparted over a sequence of courses, from the broadest career exploration to the more occupationally-specific skills. Alternatively, most industry-based standards focus squarely on those occupationally-specific skills, leading to a disconnect between them and the CCTC.

We also found that the majority of industry-based standards did not, on average, address the 12 Career Ready Practices, which are the cross-cutting skills and dispositions necessary for any individual in the workplace. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that less than half of the industry-based standards fully aligned to such Practices as “communicate clearly, effectively and with reason” and “work productively in teams while using cultural/global competence,” which are so highly demanded in today’s economy.

However, the analysis showed that many of the industry-based standards reviewed did align well with the Career Pathway-level standards, which are the most specific standards within the CCTC. Additionally, industry-based standards developed by consortia, such as the National Council for Agriculture Education and the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, were much  more likely to address both the Career Cluster and Career Pathway-level standards.

What Are the Implications?

The bottom line is that industry-based standards play an important role in preparing students for careers, but that they cannot alone make up a program of study as they often fail to address the broader career exploration skills, as well as those key cross-cutting or “employability” skills that have utility in any career. As state leaders and other stakeholders develop, review and/or approve programs of study, they must:

  • Ensure the standards not only address the key occupationally-specific skills, but also those addressed at the Career Cluster level, as well as the Career Ready Practices, and
  • Provide guidance to local leaders and educators on how to implement the various sets of state and industry-based standards available and build out a coherent sequence of courses and learning experiences aligned to those different standards.

Read the full report here, watch the webinar recording or download the webinar PPT.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director, NASDCTEc

CTE Research Review

July 16th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) recently released a review of the state budget landscape for fiscal year (FY) 2015, which began on July 1. Career Technical Education (CTE) receives its funding through a variety of streams – including from these state budgets. While the report does not speak to CTE funding directly, understanding a state’s fiscal health is important, particularly after many continue to recover from the recession.

According to the governors’ proposed budgets, state spending is projected to grow moderately for the fifth consecutive year – to $750.1 billion, a 2.9 percent increase from FY 2014.  Though state revenues are projected to grow, gains are expected to be constrained by economic growth and a weak labor market, as they were in 2014. On average, states expected to see an estimated 5 percent increase in FY 2014, but in the end, only saw growth of 4.3 percent. While many states are expected to surpass pre-recession spending levels in FY 2015, 10 recommended states budgets remain below pre-recession highs.

Mid-year program cuts can be a clear sign of fiscal distress, according to the report. In FY 2014, nine states made mid-year cuts to K-12 and five made cuts to higher education. With modest fiscal advances for FY 2015, 39 governors have proposed increases to core services such as K-12 ($10.9 billion) and postsecondary education ($3.5 billion). Three states have proposed overall cuts to K-12 and five recommended slashing higher education funding.

Be sure to check out the full NASBO report for a state-by-state breakdown of changes to state aid, expenditures, revenues and much more.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

July 8th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has been the focus of much research and discussion as a catalyst for innovation and economic growth.  With recent publications from the Brookings Institution and the National Center for Education Statistics, new research supports the idea that a STEM degree pays off – both in salary and rate of employment.

The Brookings report, “Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills,” used labor market information to analyze the skill requirements and duration of online job postings, and found that job openings for STEM positions take an average of 50 days to fill – compared to the 33-day average for non-STEM jobs. In particular, advertisements for health science and information technology jobs within the STEM sphere were advertised 23 and 15 days longer, respectively, than non-STEM jobs, and professional STEM vacancies are staying vacant longer on average than before the recession. The study’s author suggests that these indicators show a short supply of STEM skills in the labor market despite clear demand, particularly in tech hubs such as Seattle, San Jose and San Francisco.

The report also pointed to an important variation that is often lost in data aggregation – STEM jobs requiring less than a bachelor’s degree were harder to fill than non-STEM jobs that required a bachelor’s degree. At the high school level, the hardest job to fill are STEM-intensive health care practitioners, such as medical and lab technicians, jobs that often pay in excess of $20/hour.

“These job openings data provide new evidence that, post-recession, STEM skills, particularly those associated with high levels of educational attainment, are in high demand among employers,” author Jonathan Rothwell wrote. “Meanwhile, job seekers possessing neither STEM knowledge nor higher education face extraordinary levels of competition for a scarce number of jobs.”

Another report, released this week from the National Center for Education Statistics, further supported the economic value of STEM skills through a four-year longitudinal study of baccalaureate graduates and their rates of employment.

As part of its ongoing “Baccalaureate and Beyond” data collection series, NCES surveyed a nationally representative sample of graduates who completed their bachelor’s degrees during the 2007-2008 school year. Of the 17,000-person sample, about 16 percent were STEM majors (including computer science, engineering, biological/physical sciences, math and agricultural sciences) and 83.8 percent were non-STEM majors.

In general, the data show that STEM degree-holders generally fared better than non-STEM degree holders in nearly every way including overall employment, number of jobs held since graduation, percentage of months spent unemployed, and average salary. Important to note, the NCES survey, unlike the Brookings report, classifies health sciences as a non-STEM degree, yet still STEM fares better overall. However, even with its NCES classification as a non-STEM degree, health sciences graduates still outperform their non-STEM peers in almost every category.

To learn more about how STEM fits into the CTE enterprise, check out our issue paper, “CTE is Your STEM Strategy”.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

CTE Research Review

July 3rd, 2014

Research Image_6.2013This week, Jobs for the Future and the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a two-year progress report on its Pathways to Prosperity Network. The network, which consists of 10 states, focuses on creating career pathways for students spanning high schools and community or technical colleges. Along with statewide and regional examples, the report provides lessons from the field and policy recommendations.

The network’s mission grew out of a 2011 report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education which argued the current U.S. education system focused too narrowly on preparing all students for a four-year college degree, and by doing so ignored other postsecondary options that could better suit many students. The project’s long-term objective is “to create statewide strategies that ensure that all middle and high school students are provided with systematic, sustained exposure to the world of work and careers, and that students in their upper high school years have access to educational options that integrate academic and technical skills and lead to a postsecondary credential with value in the labor market.”

While the report found “gold standard” work-based learning opportunities in some schools and a philosophical commitment to these practices in many instances, none of the models could be found across whole districts or even entire high schools. These opportunities are not more readily available because, “employers in the United States do not take the long view about the value of investing in talent early.” The report shared the burden, however, with schools, saying that even if employers were more inclined to collaborate, teachers and administrators “do not have the time or capacity to develop the number of internships needed while attending to their other responsibilities.” The authors also pointed to other factors such as already tight class schedules and a lack of government youth employment policies.

The authors called on state agencies to better coordinate resources to scale up Pathways programs; increase dual enrollment opportunities; further integrate CTE with academic programs, particularly those with a STEM focus; and develop policies to incentivize business involvement.

Be sure to check out examples of how Pathways states are increasing work-based learning opportunities, leveraging public funds, and a state-by-state report that looks at progress through a statewide and regional lens.

CTE Research Review

June 25th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013In this week’s Research Review, we dive into unemployment rates for community college graduates and a new report on the manufacturing sector from the Milstein Center.

Community college graduates vs. unemployment rates

The New York Times has tapped into data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics linking unemployment rates to educational attainment. Most strikingly among community college graduates, those who finished with an occupational degree had a substantially lower unemployment rate than their academic-degree counterparts at 4.0 and 4.8 percent, respectively.

The data also suggest that occupationally focused associate’s degrees (which encompass most CTE fields of study) “are healthy and growing,” according to additional analysis from the Economic Modeling Specialists International.

Six proposals to expand manufacturing’s innovative capacity

The recently released inaugural report from The Milstein Commission on New Manufacturing, which is part of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, explores challenges facing the future of small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises and their ability to innovate as technologies advance and global demand shifts over the next decade.

Among the six ideas proposed, the commission advocates for “upside-down degrees” to encourage alignment between work experience and college education, a “skills census” to better understand the skills gap and a renewed focus on technology and engineering skills for high school students as a means to stimulate the rise of new manufacturing in the United States.

According to the report, the country’s 258,000 small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises represent more than 98 percent of all U.S. manufacturing firms and now share 45 percent of the sector’s jobs. The report identified a serious and comprehensive cultural change as necessary to create a pipeline of skilled workers from K-12 and workforce training programs. However, those challenges notwithstanding, small and medium firms often lack the required capital to invest in their employees or the on-the-job training needed to keep their existing workforce current.

Check out the entire report to learn more about the six proposals.

NASDCTEc’s state pages updated

Our state profile pages have been updated to include state allocations of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins) for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. We’ve also recently added new functionality for members only that allows users to compare multiple states, and have begun identifying and sharing CTE success stories from across the country. We’ll list other new additions here as they become available.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

June 11th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has stepped into the STEM conversation with a new review of the federal government’s STEM education programs. The Obama Administration has championed STEM as critical to maintaining U.S. global competitiveness and has set a clear priority that American students “move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math.” Against the backdrop of repeated warnings over the growing STEM skills mismatch, researchers have argued over whether the education system needs to produce more graduates to fill jobs in fields that require STEM competencies. The GAO report investigates this issue, as well as existing federal programs’ ability to address the matter, including looking at programs’ workforce alignment and college preparation goals.

The review focused on 13 of the 154 federal STEM programs for secondary and postsecondary education administered by the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health. These 13 programs represented the largest federal investment in STEM education – 54 percent of the total $2.6 billion obligated in fiscal year 2012. The findings also gave an update on the GAO’s 2012 report that found 83 percent of the federal government’s STEM education programs reviewed overlapped to some degree with at least one other program. Federal agencies have been working to consolidate duplicative programs and missions through strategic planning. The report concluded that demand for STEM workers remains difficult to pinpoint and thus the appropriate role of the federal investment in this area is uncertain. However, it did find that regardless of a STEM degree-holder’s career choices, the “rigor of a STEM education may help promote a workforce with transferable skills and the potential to fuel innovation and economic growth.”

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

June 6th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013The National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) recently released a case study of Memphis City Schools’ multi-year effort to scale up access to dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities. The report indicates that Memphis is a CTE trailblazer for its sustained, targeted investment in district-wide dual enrollment, rare in most communities and even less common among large urban areas with high numbers of traditionally underserved students.

The report focuses on how Memphis schools implemented its dual enrollment initiative, and offers best practices for others interested in looking to make a similar investment. The study also shared Memphis’ experience working with local and state policymakers and other institutional leaders concerned with easing the pathway into college. The case study, Expanding Access to Dual Enrollment and College: A Case Study of Memphis City Schools, was conducted by researchers from the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools & Teaching at Columbia University’s Teachers College and was commissioned by NACEP.

Also last week, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released its annual Condition of Education report. Though there are no CTE-specific trends this year’s report, it’s worth checking out the latest trends in postsecondary education enrollment and attainment.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

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