Navigating the Stormy Waters of Career Readiness Data: New Report Highlights Opportunities for States to Improve their CTE Data Systems

April 18th, 2019

How many girls of color earned an industry-recognized credential in Information Technology last year? What types of work-based learning experiences lead to the best wage outcomes for learners from low-income families? How many graduates from Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in advanced manufacturing go on to work in their field of study?

A strong, well-aligned data system allows State CTE Directors and other state leaders to answer these questions and more. But according to the latest State of CTE report, The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness, these data systems are not meeting the need for data-informed decision making.

While the report finds that 86 percent of State CTE Directors believe improving and enhancing their CTE data systems is a priority, only 45 percent say they have the information they need to assist in making decisions about CTE program quality and other initiatives at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. Making decisions about CTE program quality and equity without sufficient data is tantamount to sailors navigating the stormy seas using old maps and constellations rather than modern GPS technology.

What is the cause for this gap?

For one, state data systems are not sufficiently aligned across the secondary, postsecondary and workforce sectors. According to the survey, less than half of State Directors say their CTE data system is “mostly” or “fully” aligned with secondary data systems, 28 percent with postsecondary data systems and 18 percent with workforce data systems.

Ensuring learners are prepared with the skills and experiences they need for high-wage, high-skill employment in in-demand occupations is a shared responsibility among secondary education, postsecondary education and the workforce sector. Yet too many states continue to use disparate data systems for collecting, validating and accessing learner-level data. Using disparate systems not only increases the data collection burden for local leaders but also threatens the quality of the data and the ability of state leaders to use their data effectively.

Another critical challenge is improving the methods for collecting and validating learner-level data. Too many states rely on self-reported information without confirming that learners successfully completed a work-based learning experience, verifying that the industry-recognized credentials reported on school data submissions were awarded by credential providers, or documenting that learners earned postsecondary credit for completing dual or concurrent enrollment in high school.

Notably, 61 percent of states say they use student surveys – which have notoriously low response rates and are difficult to validate – to determine whether secondary learners go on to meaningful employment after they graduate. Thirty-three percent report the same for postsecondary learners.

This information is not easy to obtain and requires clear data sharing partnerships with employers, credential providers and other state agencies. But improving the methods of collecting and validating CTE data gives critical decision makers confidence in their use of data and ensures learners, educators and community members can trust decisions that are made on their behalf.

There are clear skies ahead, however, if states leverage implementation of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) to improve the quality and effectiveness of their career readiness data. Perkins V pushes states to improve data collection and reporting and make more data-informed decisions about CTE program quality and equity. As states begin the months-long process of vision setting, stakeholder engagement and plan development for Perkins V, they should consider the opportunity to improve their CTE data systems by auditing their current practices, establishing and formalizing data-sharing partnerships, and embedding data-informed decision making in policy and practice.

Equipped with strong, well-aligned data systems that are reinforced by trusted methods of collecting and validating data, State Directors can use their data to chart out a path to success for learners in their state. Otherwise the institutions, learners and communities they serve will be left unmoored.

The State of CTE report is based on a national survey of State Directors and examines how states are collecting, validating and using career readiness data. This resource was developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. This resource was developed in partnership with the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, a project of the National Skills Coalition, and the Data Quality Campaign.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Checking in on New Skills for Youth States: How States Have Set their Sights on Access and Equity

March 26th, 2019

The Met, a work-based learning focused technical center in Providence, Rhode Island, serves about 800 students across the state. It is also one of eight recipients of Rhode Island’s new Innovation and Equity grant program, a $1.2 million program to help local districts identify and support populations that are underrepresented in high-skill, in-demand career pathways. Using funding from the Innovation and Equity grant program, the Met is working to recruit low-income learners into the Finance program and help them earn high-value credentials that have immediate value in the labor market.

Access and equity is a priority for Rhode Island and its nine peer states in the New Skills for Youth initiative, a focus that is highlighted in a new series of state snapshots released today. In 2017, each New Skills for Youth state was awarded $2 million to help transform career readiness opportunities for learners in their states. After spending the early part of the initiative establishing partnerships and laying the policy groundwork for success, states turned to implementation, with a focus on equity, in 2018.

Some states are focusing on including learners with disabilities in high-quality career pathways. For example, Delaware piloted a new program in 2018 called PIPELine to Career Success to remove barriers for learners with disabilities to access work-based learning experiences. The program is a two-year process in which school districts identify barriers to access, examine their root causes, and then implement strategies to close access gaps. The Delaware Department of Education has made grants available to three pilot districts and hopes to scale the approach across the state in the future.

Other states are working to expand access to advanced coursework for underserved populations. Rhode Island Innovation and Equity program is one such initiative. Another is Ohio’s Expanding Opportunities for Each Child grant. The state leveraged a rarely used allowance in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which lets states set aside up to 3 percent of their Title I funds for Direct Student Services grants, to award more than $7 million to 17 sites in economically disadvantaged communities. The grants are designed to either develop and expand career pathways or improve access to advanced coursework (including AP, IB and CTE).

Additionally, New Skills for Youth states are embedding equity as a core principle in both policy and practice. Several states are implementing statewide initiatives in support of academic and career planning, and they have focused their training, guidance and supports to emphasize the importance of equity. Others have built considerations about equity into their criteria for designating – and funding – high-quality career pathways. These steps ensure that questions of equity and access are addressed at every stage, from design to implementation.

The 2019 calendar year is the final year of this stage of the New Skills for Youth initiative. As states look beyond the end of the initiative, one question that is front and center in the year ahead is how they will secure commitment and funding to keep the focus on career readiness. States have made a lot of progress, and the efforts they have taken to embed equity in policy and practice will have a lasting impact for years to come. But state leaders understand they must continue to elevate this work as a priority to ensure their efforts in New Skills for Youth can be sustained and scaled in the future.

The state snapshots were developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and the Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

The Number of States Counting Career Readiness Has More than Doubled Since 2014

March 19th, 2019

In a strong signal of support for Career Technical Education (CTE) and career readiness in high school, 40 states are now measuring career readiness in their state or federal high school accountability systems. Fewer than half as many – 17 – were measuring career readiness just five years ago.

The sophistication and design of the measures has evolved as well, and many states are working to intentionally link their accountability systems with high-quality career pathways.

That’s according to a new analysis from Advance CTE, Education Strategy Group, Achieve and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The report, the third edition in the Making Career Readiness Count series, uses a four-pronged framework that was developed by an expert workgroup and outlined in the report Destination Known: Valuing College AND Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems  to categorize how states are measuring college and career readiness.

The four categories used in the analysis provide a blueprint for states to develop and evolve rigorous measures. They each outline three levels that build upon one another, from Fundamental, to Advanced and Exceptional. The categories are:

  • Progress toward Post-High School Credential: Student demonstration of successful progress toward credentials of value beyond high school.
  • Co-curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences: Student completion of state-defined co-curricular experience(s) aligned to students’ academic and career plans.
  • Assessment of Readiness: Students scoring at the college- and career-ready level on assessment(s) that are validated by higher education and industry.
  • Transitions beyond High School: Successful student transition includes placement into postsecondary education, training or the workforce within 12 months of graduation.

Overall, the most common measure used across the states is Assessment of Readiness, with thirty states and the District of Columbia valuing experiences that are aligned with the Destination Known recommendations. Another 12 states include out of sequence measures that are aligned with this indicator but do not include the Fundamental measure, attainment of state-defined college- and career-ready level on a high school summative assessment. The vast majority of states counted under the Assessment of Readiness category are measuring industry-recognized credential attainment.

Another commonly used measure is Progress Toward Post-High School Credential. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia include measures aligned with the Destination Known recommendations, and another 22 states include out of sequence indicators. A number of states include either pathway completion or dual enrollment coursework in their accountability plans without requiring that experience to be accompanied by the completion of a state-defined college- and career-ready course of study, which is the Fundamental measurement in this category.

Twelve states include a Co-Curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences measure in their state or federal accountability systems, often looking at work-based learning participation. Eight states include information on Transitions Beyond High School, reporting either postsecondary enrollment or postsecondary enrollment without the need for remediation.

With all of the progress states have made, there is still room to strengthen and improve measures of career readiness. For example, states should be explicit about how career readiness components – such as work-based learning, industry-recognized credentials and dual enrollment – align to each other and to a students’ career pathways. They should also be transparent with their data and put thought and care into designing accountability systems that value and encourage the experiences that are best aligned with the outcomes they want for students. These and other opportunities are discussed in the report, Making Career Readiness Count 3.0.

The even harder work ahead is to support all students in their preparation for and transition to college, career and life. Regardless of the path students choose to pursue, they need to be transition ready. State and federal accountability systems can and should be used to highlight areas for improvement and connect programs and students with the supports they need to be successful.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

States Passed 146 Policies to Support CTE in 2018

January 29th, 2019

2018 was a significant year for Career Technical Education (CTE) at the federal and state levels. On July 31, 2018, the President signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) into law, which reauthorized the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV). The reauthorization of Perkins signaled a federal commitment to and a recognition of the promise and value of high-quality CTE. Additionally, at the state level 42 states and Washington, D.C., passed a total of 146 policy actions related to CTE and career readiness, reflecting a commitment from state leaders to advance CTE.

Today, Advance CTE and Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) released the sixth annual Year in Review: State Policies Impacting CTE report, examining 2018 state legislative activity, including legislation, executive orders, board of education actions, budget provisions and ballot initiatives. To develop the report, Advance CTE and ACTE reviewed state activity, catalogued all finalized state action and coded activity based on the policy area of focus. For 2018, the top policy areas of focus include:

  • Funding;
  • Industry partnerships/work-based learning;
  • Dual/concurrent enrollment, articulation and early college;
  • Industry-recognized credentials, tied with graduation requirements; and
  • Access/equity.

In total, 30 states enacted policy in 2018 that impacted CTE funding, making funding the most popular policy category for the sixth year in a row. A number of states directed funding toward the needs of underrepresented, low-income or otherwise disadvantaged populations, including California, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and North Carolina. Washington established a scholarship program to support foster and homeless youth entering postsecondary education or pursuing an apprenticeship, among other policies that supported access and equity, and New York is funding 15 early college high school programs aligned with in-demand industries in communities with low rates of graduation or postsecondary transition.

While roughly one hundred fewer policies were passed in 2018 than in 2017, this past year’s policies still reflect a commitment from state leaders to advance CTE. A decrease in the number of CTE policies passed compared to previous years should not be misinterpreted as an indication that CTE is not a priority for states. In fact, at least 16 governors identified modernizing CTE as a priority for their states during their 2018 State of State Addresses.

As states continue to pass CTE related policies, it is important to focus on the quality of the implementation of the policies and not only the quantity. To view the previous years’ Year in Review reports click here. Advance CTE and ACTE will be joined by a state leader to discuss these policies in more depth on February 14 at 2 p.m. EST – to register for the webinar click here.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

New Advance CTE Report Examines Expanding Middle School CTE

October 30th, 2018

Middle school Career Technical Education (CTE) has the power to expose students to college and career options and equip them with the transferable skills they need to plan for and succeed in high school and beyond. In recent years, a number of states have invested resources and supports to expand CTE and career exploration opportunities in middle schools, a trend that is likely to continue with the recent passage of the Strengthening Career Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), which now allows states to use Perkins funding to support CTE as early as the fifth grade.

To help states unpack the potential approaches to expanding and ensuring high-quality middle school CTE options, Advance CTE – in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers and Education Strategy Group, through the New Skills for Youth Initiative, funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. – examine leading states’ approaches to middle school CTE in Expanding Middle School CTE to Promote Lifelong Learner Success. Some of the state approaches highlighted in the report include:

  • Nebraska’s use of in-and-out of school experiences to expand access to middle school CTE, particularly to rural communities;
  • Ohio’s use of standards and course options to ensure vertical alignment of middle school and high school CTE;
  • Utah’s competency-based approach to middle school CTE; and
  • North Carolina’s Career and Technical Education Grade Expansion Program.

The report concludes with major considerations for states when implementing or expanding middle school CTE, such as removing any restrictions that prevent states from accessing Perkins V funding and deciding whether middle school CTE is about career exploration, career preparation or both.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

New Advance CTE and College Board Guide Examines How AP Courses can be Integrated into CTE Programs of Study

October 29th, 2018

Advanced Placement® (AP) and Career Technical Education (CTE) courses can and should work in tandem to support career readiness by encouraging the development of the academic knowledge and technical skills that are, together, increasingly important to students’ overall employability. For too long, “college-ready” and “career-ready” coursework and experiences have been viewed as separate in schools. With an estimated 65 percent of jobs in the economy requiring postsecondary education and training beyond high school by 2020, schools should promote college and career readiness.

To help state, district and school leaders think through how to place students on pathways that prepare them for college and career, Advance CTE and the College Board partnered to examine how AP® courses can be integrated into CTE programs of study in Advanced Placement® and Career and Technical Education: Working Together. This guide examines how specific AP courses can be embedded into or used to augment programs of study by Career Cluster®. To help leaders with this work, this resource provides guiding questions for leaders to consider and examines how Maryland and Tennessee integrate AP courses into CTE programs of study.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

CTE’s Equity Challenge

September 20th, 2018

Throughout history, and continuing today, learners of color, low-income learners, female learners and learners with disabilities have been historically tracked into terminal vocational programs leading to jobs with uncertain promise of economic growth and prosperity. While the quality of CTE programs has significantly improved since then, many of these same learners cannot access high-quality CTE programs of study that prepare them for success in postsecondary education and their future careers.

To help state leaders recognize these historical barriers and adopt promising solutions to close equity gaps in CTE, Advance CTE is launching a new series of policy briefs called Making Good on the Promise. The first two briefs are now available in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

The first brief explores CTE’s history, taking a close look at the practice of tracking learners into low-quality vocational programs and examining the different ways that certain learners have faced barriers to accessing high-quality CTE programs of study. The second brief highlights promising practices from states that are using data to identify and address access and achievement gaps by different learner populations.

Ultimately, each learner deserves to access a learning environment in which he or she is supported, feels welcome, and can acquire the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve lifelong career success. But many of the structures and systems in place today enforce historical biases and discrimination that make it challenging for learners to access these opportunities. Reversing historical trends and expanding access and opportunity for each learner will require tough conversations, humility, and a commitment to both quality and equity.

In Delaware, for example, state leaders made a commitment to use state CTE data to expand equitable access to high-quality CTE programs. Through the regular CTE performance management process, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) compares the population of learners in CTE programs to learners in the larger student body to identify enrollment gaps.

If a certain learner population is either underrepresented or overrepresented in the program of study, it triggers a structured protocol. DDOE staff work in partnership with local leaders to conduct interviews with teachers, learners and parents and dig deeper into the root causes. DDOE and district staff debrief about the conversations and collectively develop a report summarizing the findings of the study. Although local sites are not required to act on DDOE’s recommendations, many recognize the need and seize the opportunity for additional state support.

Conversations about equity are often difficult, but they are necessary to secure access and opportunity for each learner. Collaborative, data-driven strategies like Delaware’s CTE performance management protocol allow state leaders to identify and address inequities in an impactful way.

In future briefs, we will explore how state leaders can work to rebuild trust among communities that have been historically under-served, expand opportunity for every learner, and put mechanisms in place to ensure learner success. The Making Good on the Promise series is made possible through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. These briefs and all future resources can be accessed in the Learning that Works Resource Center at careertech.org/resource/series/making-good-promise.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Webinar: The State’s Role in Communicating about CTE

September 10th, 2018

Join Advance CTE on Thursday, September 20 from 2 – 3 p.m. ET for Advance CTE’s webinar, The State’s Role in Communicating About Career Technical Education (CTE). Advance CTE will feature Idaho Career and Technical Education and how they have transformed the way in which they communicate about CTE with all stakeholders. Caty Solace, Outreach and Communications Manager at the Idaho Workforce Development Council, will discuss how Idaho CTE created a statewide brand, introduced storytelling as a major component of their communications plan and the tactical strategies they used to better communicate about the value and promise of CTE across all audiences.

Speakers:

  • Caty Solace, Outreach & Communications Manager, Idaho Workforce Development Council
  • Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Manager, Advance CTE

Register today!

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Manager 

New Resources: Designing Meaningful Career-Ready Indicators (Part 2)

August 21st, 2018

Earlier this summer, Advance CTE in partnership with Education Strategy Group (ESG) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), released two profiles highlighting how states were integrating career-ready indicators into their accountability systems, specifically Progress towards Post-High School Credential and Assessment of (college and career) Readiness.

Today, we are releasing the final two of these profiles aligned with the remaining categories in  Destination Known: Valuing College AND Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems: Co-Curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences and Transitions Beyond High School. The Co-curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences profile focuses on how states like Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina are measuring work-based learning within their accountability system, while the Transitions Beyond High School profile explores how Colorado and Missouri are holding schools accountable for learners’ post-high school success in college and careers. While these are newer indicators and less likely to be included in states’ accountability systems, they are a critical to measuring college and career readiness in learners.

Read all four of the Career-Focused Indicator Profiles here and stay tuned for an update to Making Career Readiness Count (3.0) soon:

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

Legislative Update: Perkins Reauthorization Signed into Law

July 31st, 2018

Today, the President signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), which reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins).

As we reported, the House and Senate voted to pass this bill last week. President Trump will travel to Tampa Bay Technical High School this evening to provide remarks about the bill and host a roundtable on workforce development. Watch it live at 6:10 p.m. Eastern Time.

Advance CTE and ACTE released a joint press statement after the President signed H.R. 2353 into law. Check out additional resources on our webpage. To make sure you get the latest news and resources about federal policy that impacts Career Technical Education (CTE), sign up for our Legislative Updates!

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Manager

 

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