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Leaders, Laggards and the State of the Common Core

September 12th, 2014

2014 Leaders & Laggards

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has released the newest version of its Leaders & Laggards, a state-by-state analysis of K-12 education. Seven years after its inaugural edition, the report found that every state had improved in K-12 education but results still vary greatly in student outcomes across the country.

The 2014 report graded states on an A-F system using 11 metrics including student achievement, return on investment, international competitiveness and postsecondary and workforce readiness. The American Enterprise Institute conducted the research in the report. This year’s report also showed how student scores changed over time since the initial report.

Tennessee was highlighted as a state that made tremendous progress since the 2007 rankings, receiving an A for progress but was still awarded D’s and F’s in categories such as academic achievement, Technology and international competitiveness.

The report drew from national data such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Advanced Placement exam passage rates, and high school graduation rates.

Citing the country’s high unemployment rate and persistently high number of unfilled jobs as evidence of a skills gap, the researchers attempted to look closer at how the K-12 system was preparing students for college and careers. However, they said insufficient data and the lack of a single accountability metric prevented them from being able to truly measure career readiness or post-high school outcomes.

Also, despite having a category that examined career readiness, CTE was visibly absent from both the report and the conversation at the public event in Washington, D.C. When asked about why CTE wasn’t included, AEI’s Frederick M. Hess called out the lack of quality, consistent national data on CTE as the reason for its absence from the report.

You can spend time with the report’s sophisticated web tool, which allows you to compare states by metric, see full state report cards and look closer at the data used.

Where does the Common Core stand now?

After months of heated debates over the Common Core State Standards, it might be easy to lose track of which states have kept, renamed, modified or overturned the new (or not so new) standards to measure college and career readiness.

Education Commission of the States have taken a state-by-state look at where the Common Core currently stands. While some more high-profile examples have made news headlines, other changes – sometimes in name only – have bypassed national news. In fact, though many states have maintained their commitment to the standards, 25 have quietly renamed the standards such as Iowa Core, Maine’s Learning Results and Wyoming Content and Performance Standards.

Check out the full overview to see where your state stands.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

September 4th, 2014

Data, Data, DatResearch Image_6.2013a! This week’s installment of the CTE Research Review takes a look at new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the New York Federal Reserve.

Analysts at BLS are diving deep into their datasets to pull out trends on manufacturing employment and reemployment rates by industry. Using its Current Employment Statistics datasets, BLS found that Los Angeles had the largest total population employed in manufacturing; however, when taken as a percentage, Elkhart, Indiana (also the “RV and Band Instrument Capital(s) of the World,” according to Wikipedia), took the top spot, 47.8 percent of the working population employed in manufacturing.

BLS also examined reemployment rates for displaced workers by industry – those who were employed for at least three years but lost their jobs through layoffs or because a company closed. Although the analysis does not consider whether workers were reemployed in the same industry, it showed that industries such as hospitality, construction and information (such as telecommunications) posted the highest overall reemployment rates.

Over on Liberty Street…

This week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released a series of posts on their blog, “Liberty Street Economics,” examining the value of a college degree, which are all related to an article it released in June.

The third post in the blog series found that a quarter of those who earn a bachelor’s degree reap little economic benefit. In fact, the bottom quartile of baccalaureate holders had nearly identical wages to those with a high school degree. Another post also points to the diminishing economic rewards for students who don’t finish in four years.

These numbers poke yet another hole in the baccalaureate-only focus of the college-for-all mantra. By overlooking the broader set of postsecondary pathways, students – and not just those who may fall in the 25th percentile – may be missing their chance to earn a family-sustaining wage with job security and mobility.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

August 27th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013As postsecondary institutions work to ease students through higher education with an increasing number of interventions such as statewide articulation agreements and common course numbering systems, students moving from one postsecondary institution to another still find that their earned credits often will not move with them.

Against the backdrop of increasingly complex transfer patterns, the National Center for Education Statistics has taken a closer look at a crucial piece of the transfer process – postsecondary credit transferability. This report focuses on transfers between postsecondary institutions not the high school-to-college credit transfer through dual enrollment and other agreements.

This new study examines how often, and under what conditions, students transfer from one postsecondary institution to another and how many of their earned credits will transfer with them. The study also considers to what degree institutional and student characteristics affect credit transfers. It should be noted that the study captures only first-time, full-time students.

Analyzing data from the 2009 Postsecondary Education Transcript Study, NCES found that 35 percent one-third of first-time beginning undergraduates transferred at least once in six years, and more than 10 percent of students transferred more than once.

The study found two factors consistently contributed to successful credit transfers – academic performance prior to transfer and the direction by which a student was transferring. Overall, when a student transfers in a way that the higher education system is designed to accommodate, a student’s credit was much more likely to transfer. More than half of transfer students started in community colleges, and were more likely to have successful credit transfers than “reverse or horizontal transfers,” when students move from a university to a community college or between institutions of the same type.

Be sure to check out the full 60-page report to take a closer look at the student transfer experience.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

August 20th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013The 46th annual “2014 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools” is being released in two parts this year, with part one debuting Wednesday. The findings present a complicated picture of public attitudes toward the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), standardized tests and issues surrounding local control. This year’s topics were selected by an expert panel that included NASDCTEc member Katherine Oliver, Assistant State Superintendent at the Maryland Department of Education.

Making headlines were results indicating that support for CCSS is fading fast. This may be tied to misunderstanding of its purpose, as the study found that most Americans oppose public education efforts that they believe were created or promoted by the federal government and strongly support local control of what schools teach. While CCSS is neither a federal initiative nor designed to mandate specific curricula, the poll indicates that many Americans see CCSS as an example of federal overreach. According to the poll 56 percent say local school boards should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in public schools. Almost 30 percent of respondents indicated that state governments should have the greatest influence on what public schools teach.

Persistent across age, income and education levels, a majority of Americans also oppose using the CCSS to guide instruction, though opinion splits by political affiliation — Republican (76 percent), Independents (60 percent) and Democrats (38 percent). Nationally, just one in three people said they favored the standards, primarily because they will help students learn what they need to know regardless of where they go to school.

Each year, the study asks the public to grade the President’s performance in support of public schools. This year, President Barack Obama received the lowest grade since becoming president in 2009. Underscoring the deep divides over education in the country, respondents equally gave the President an A or B (27 percent) or a Fail (27 percent).

The study’s co-author and CEO of PDK International, William J. Bushaw, said policy makers are often faced with a tough reality when public opinion and public policy conflict, with the question being whether to modify the policy to align with public opinion or launch a communications campaign to better explain the new policy.

“To address higher achievement and greater equity, the United States needs standards of excellence, and there is wide agreement that the Common Core State Standards offer these standards. In this case, modifying policy is not a solution,” Bushaw wrote. “… Working together, education professionals through their associations, along with business and political leaders can work together to mount a nonpartisan communications campaign explaining to Americans why the Common Core State Standards are essential to the nation’s future and to the success of all children. Public support for the standards is declining — we need to fight for these standards since we are losing in the court of public opinion.”

Check back on September 17 for the second part of the 2014 poll with topics such as preparing students for college and careers, importance and affordability of college, preparing and evaluating teachers, support for reforming America’s schools, and student well-being.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

August 14th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013Although apprenticeships make up just 0.2 percent of the U.S. labor force, they are garnering more attention this summer thanks to recent reports, including from the White House’s Ready to Work initiative and a set of policy recommendations from The Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project.

American University economics professor Robert I. Lerman posited that investing, expanding and re-branding U.S. apprenticeships has “the potential to reduce youth unemployment, improve the transition from school to career, upgrade skills, raise wages of young adults, strengthen a young worker’s identity, increase U.S. productivity, achieve positive returns for employers and workers and use limited federal resources more effectively.”

Despite such findings, the size of the U.S. apprenticeship system stands in stark contrast to other major developed countries such as Canada (2.2 percent), Britain (2.7 percent) and Australia and Germany (both 3.7 percent). In Britain, apprenticeships are coming back into favor after years of decline, much like the United States’ system. Recent surveys show that students and the wider public have a “growing appetite” for apprenticeships.

Federal investments would be one part of the approach to expanding the U.S. apprenticeship program. According to Lerman, the United States spends less than $30 million annually, whereas Britain spends about £1 billion (or $1.7 billion). If British spending on apprenticeships were adjusted to match the U.S. population, Lerman estimates that figure would be $8.5 billion.

Calling the expansion of apprenticeships a “potential game-changer”, Lerman offers recommendations for federal and state governments as well as examples of successful youth apprenticeship programs in Georgia and Wisconsin

Be sure to check out additional apprenticeship-related recommendations from the Center for American Progress, through their series of issue papers as well.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

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

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.

 

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