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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

State Policy Update: New Middle-Skill Job Fact Sheets; NGA Awards Funding to 14 States

August 29th, 2014

Across the country, employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill critical middle-skill jobs. These positions, which require some postsecondary education but not a bachelor’s degree, constitute the majority of the U.S. labor market, but new analysis from the National Skills Coalition (NSC) indicates that there aren’t nearly enough qualified American workers to fill middle-skill openings, hampering states’ economies from growing and employers from hiring.

Earlier this week, NSC released a set of 50-state fact sheets that examines these forgotten middle-skill jobs. Analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Community Survey, NSC found that middle-skill jobs account for 54 percent of the U.S. labor market but only 44 percent of workers fit into the middle-skill cohort. Conversely, the analysis showed a large surplus of low-skilled workers competing for low-skilled jobs and a smaller, but similar, surplus for high-skill workers and jobs.

Career Technical Education helps to bridge these gaps in key industries. Students with a CTE-related associate’s degree or credential can earn up to $19,000 more per year than those with a comparable humanities degree.

 NGA Awards Funding to 14 States

The National Governors Association recently awarded grant funding to 14 states in an effort to help align education and training systems to the needs of the state economies.

As a postsecondary degree or certificate rapidly becomes the new minimum for citizens to gain access to the middle class and beyond, states are looking to maximize their role in promoting collaboration among state agencies, technical training and education institutions to ensure business and industry have the skilled workforce they need to succeed and grow.

With the grant money, states are intended to make progress in the following areas:

  • Articulate and implement a strong vision connecting the education and training systems with the needs of the economy;
  • Integrate and use education and workforce data to inform policy, track progress and measure success;
  • Build industry and education partnerships; and
  • Modify the use of resources and incentives to support attainment of the integrated vision.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 6)

August 8th, 2014

Catching Up SeriesEditor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislative activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here as well as the previous installments. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

Within K-12, state legislatures were very active this year, making several changes to programs and high school graduation requirements, to name a few.

Programmatic Changes

Georgia lawmakers amended the state’s Youth Apprenticeship Program through the “Work Based Learning Act,” to increase the number of students and employers participating in such programs in order to produce a “successful twenty-first century workforce,” according to the bill’s text.

Florida also expanded its collegiate high school system by requiring each Florida College System institution to work with the district school board in its designated service area to establish one or more of these programs beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. Additionally, the programs must include an option for students in grades 11 or 12 to earn a CAPE industry certification and to successfully complete 30 credit hours through dual enrollment toward their first year of college.

In Mississippi, lawmakers approved a new pilot program for middle school dropout prevention and recovery. School districts that receive a “D” or “F” rating are eligible to participate if selected by the state Board of Education. The pilot’s purpose is to reengage students and increase the state’s graduation rates through an educational program that provides vocational technology and other instructional models that are self-paced and mastery-based, provide flexible scheduling and a blended learning environment with individualized graduation plans.

Graduation Requirements

Washington lawmakers directed the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop curriculum frameworks for a selected list of Career Technical Education courses with content in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that is considered equivalent to high school graduation requirements in science or math. The law also requires that course content must be aligned with industry standards and the state’s academic standards in math and science. Increasing CTE course equivalencies has been a priority of Washington Governor Jay Inslee. The frameworks are to be submitted to the state Board of Education for approval and implementation for the 2015-16 academic year.

Much like Florida’s change to its graduation requirements in math, Arizona school districts are now allowed to approve a rigorous computer science course to fulfill a mathematics credit for graduation.

As part of its “Alaska Education Opportunity Act” and Governor Sean Parnell’s priorities for this year’s legislative session, lawmakers repealed the state’s high school exit exam and replaced it with a college or career ready assessment such as the ACT, SAT or WorkKeys.

As districts look to implement these new requirements, a new report from ACT may bear some useful insight. In 2005, Illinois lawmakers changed the states’ graduation requirements to a minimum of three years of math and two years of science. ACT found that these new requirements had no significant impact on college-readiness test scores in math and science, though there was a slight improvement in college enrollment. ACT says that these findings suggest that advanced coursework alone isn’t enough to improve student learning.

Next time in the “Catching Up With…” series

This will be the last post for legislatures that wrapped their sessions by May 9. In the weeks to come, we’ll take a closer look at major CTE-related bills from the remaining 25 state legislatures. Stay tuned to learn more!

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 5)

July 25th, 2014

Catching Up SeriesEditor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislative activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here andthepreviousinstallments. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

Credentials

Florida lawmakers added a few more provisions to the state’s Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE), adding to the major changes from last year’s session. The law now requires school boards to inform parents of the projected return on investment should their child complete an industry-recognized certification during high school versus completing one after graduation. It also directs the state Department of Education and Workforce Florida, Inc. to begin collecting return-on-investment information for industry-certified CTE programs and career-themed courses as part of its broader collection of student achievement and performance data. The law creates two new features as well – CAPE Acceleration and CAPE Innovation – which will take effect in the 2015-2016 school year, and further incentivizes school districts to offer industry-recognized credentials for articulated college credit.

In a separate bill, the legislature also permitted computer science courses to count for one high school graduation requirement in math or science if the course is deemed of sufficient rigor and a related industry certification is earned. Similarly, a computer technology course in 3D rapid prototype printing with a related industry certification may satisfy up to two math requirements.

In an effort to support and integrate technology in the classroom, the same legislation also provided that grades K-12 will give students the opportunity to earn digital tool certificates and grade-appropriate, technology-related industry certifications.

Military experience for academic credit

Washington and Utah joined a growing number of states that will now offer academic credit for veterans’ military experience as well as in-state tuition. The Connecticut General Assembly directed the state’s licensing authorities to certify, waive, or award certain licenses, examinations or credit to veterans or National Guard members who have military experience similar to the existing requirements.

In Washington, a new law requires the state’s higher education institutions to adopt policies that would award academic credit for military training applicable to the student’s certificate or degree requirements. Meanwhile, Utah lawmakers modified a 2013 law to require that veterans receive college and career counseling before the credit is awarded. According to an analysis by the Education Commission of the States, seven state legislatures also passed similar laws in 2013 related to prior learning assessments for veterans.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Catching up with … State Legislatures (Part 4)

July 9th, 2014

Catching Up SeriesEditor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislative activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here and thepreviousinstallments. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

As STEM education and jobs continue to garner attention across the country, state legislatures this spring devoted funds, attention and policy language to help increase awareness and opportunities for students in this critical field.

In Utah, lawmakers directed the state’s STEM Action Center to award competitive grants to school districts and charter schools to fund STEM-related certification programs for high school students.  The legislation calls for successful grantee programs to include preparing high school students to be job ready for available STEM-related positions and result in a “nationally industry-recognized employer STEM related certification.” The law also allows grantee schools to partner with community colleges or a private sector employer to provide the certification program.

Drawing from a 2012 report calling for improvements to the state’s STEM education and workforce, Oklahoma lawmakers passed legislation for the new “Oklahoma – A STEM State of Mind” program. The legislation creates a designation for a city or region to be named a “STEM community or region” as a means to shore up the awareness about STEM fields and jobs in Oklahoma. Those seeking to be designated a STEM community or region must a gather a broad base of stakeholders from the area to form partnerships with education and industry as well as develop and execute action plans for improving STEM education and training. The act, which was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in April, codifies part of the state Department of Education’s STEM strategy, and specifically cites that the state’s CTE centers should be included in these efforts.

Legislatures in Oklahoma and Washington also passed laws changing high school graduation requirements to allow students to take STEM or STEM CTE courses as an equivalent for a traditional math or science credit. Iowa lawmakers dedicated $1 million to STEM internships with Iowa employers that will be administered through the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 3)

June 26th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislative Catching Up Seriesactivity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here and the previous installments here and here. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

Workforce development received a lot of attention from state legislatures this spring as lawmakers across the country created new apprenticeship programs, and called on state workforce boards, businesses and education entities to collaborate in order better address local labor market needs and skills gaps.

Apprenticeships, Career Pathways and Tax Credits

Several states created or expanded their apprenticeship programs in an effort to create a stronger pipeline of skilled talent in specific fields. Both Indiana and Connecticut seized on tax credits as a means to encourage businesses to offer qualified apprenticeships.

In Indiana, school districts and charter schools can now receive grants to support career pathways for high-wage, high-demand jobs that require an industry-recognized credential and includes a cooperative agreement with a business. Also, an employer that hires a student who has completed such program is eligible for a tax credit. Indiana also set aside an additional $5 million for its Pathways for Academic Career and Employment, a program first started in 2013 to provide partnerships between community colleges, industry and nonprofits.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s proposed apprenticeship program also passed the legislature, committing about $6 million for the Apprenticeship Training Program Fund and a job training program.

Sector Partnerships, Alignment and Coordination

Several state legislatures directed their workforce investment boards and other entities to determine local and regional workforce needs and to better align their work with counterparts in education and commerce.

In Alabama, the state’s workforce board was allocated $4.3 million for regions to determine local skill needs, develop seamless educational pathways and align funding with identified local workforce needs. The law also sets aside $600,000 for career coaches and an additional $200,000 for regional leadership planning efforts. In a separate bill, the state also created a workforce council to promote industry-focused coordination between businesses and its P-12 and higher education systems.

Kentucky lawmakers required the state’s Office of Education and Workforce Statistics to gather and disseminate employment and earnings data of public, postsecondary graduates. Meanwhile Oregonian lawmakers passed a bill to define “a robust and effective workforce system” by promoting coordination and collaboration of the state’s employment, economic development, job training services and education sectors – in particular community colleges and public and private universities.

Connecticut’s manufacturing industry received a boost from the state legislature through the new Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which can be used to support public and private education and training programs.

States also called upon their workforce boards, education systems and businesses to create sector partnerships in order to better provide industry-driven career pathways and address local and regional skills gaps.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 2)

June 12th, 2014

Catching Up SeriesEditor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislature activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here and the first installment here. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

With more than 80 percent of high schools now enrolling students in dual enrollment coursework, it’s not a huge surprise that dual enrollment continued to expand its reach during the 2014 legislative sessions across the country.

In Alabama, the governor signed a bill that seeks to incentivize a CTE dual enrollment scholarship program. The scholarship program was first proposed by Gov. Robert Bentley’s College and Career Ready Task Force in January and further championed in the governor’s State of the State address.

The scholarship program is intended to be funded by private donations from businesses and individuals, who in turn would receive a 50 percent tax credit on their donations. The law sets aside $5 million dollars for tax credits each year, providing $10 million in scholarships for 9,500 students each year. Additionally, businesses that donate to the program can direct up to 80 percent of their donation to train students for a particular field.

In Alaska, this year’s legislative session was dubbed “the education session” by Gov. Sean Parnell in his State of the State address in January. Whether that focus was achieved still appears unclear, but one large omnibus education bill did pass both chambers and was signed by the Governor last month. Expanded CTE dual credit options were among the bill’s final contents. Institutions that receive funding through the state’s Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP) must establish and maintain partnerships with Alaska schools for dual credit in high school and toward certification.

Florida and Oregon also expanded eligibility for dual enrollment. Now, Florida students can begin enrolling in dual-credit courses starting in the sixth grade, and in Oregon, students in the 9th and 10th grades are now eligible.

Finally, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced recently that educators who teach dual enrollment classes will earn coupons to pay for their own college credits. Gov. Bullock said the program is designed to increase the number of dual credit courses available by providing an incentive to instructors themselves. Under this new credit-for-credit program, which will be funded by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, an educator with a master’s degree teaching a dual-credit course will receive a coupon that can be used toward classes in the Montana University System as well as tribal and community colleges. These credits are also transferrable, meaning teachers can give these credit coupons to friends, family or even their students. The pilot program will start this fall and end in spring 2016.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 1)

May 27th, 2014

Catching Up Series

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislature activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

There was significant legislative activity related to postsecondary education this spring – with a couple of landmark bills that even caught the attention of national media.

Postsecondary Funding

One of the most notable higher education bills to pass thus far hails from Tennessee, where Governor Bill Haslam recently signed into law the, “Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act.” The law, which will largely be paid for through lottery revenues, guarantees two years of free tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for all graduating high school seniors starting in 2015. Gov. Haslam first proposed in this year’s State of the State address as the cornerstone of his year-old Drive to 55 initiative to increase Tennessean higher education attainment to 55 percent by 2025.

Two other states also made forays into this arena. The Oregon state legislature directed its Higher Education Coordinating Commission to explore the possibility of a free tuition program. The commission is expected to submit its report by September 30. A similar effort in Mississippi, however, died in committee.

Colorado gave its higher education system a much-needed infusion of funds after years of budget cuts. The legislation known as the “College Affordability Act,” was signed by Governor John Hickenlooper in early May and increases higher education funding by $100 million for the 2014-2015 academic year (AY). The bill also institutes a six percent cap on tuition increases for the next two years.  Of that $100 million, 13 percent will be directed to community colleges, 40 percent to student aid and the remaining 53 percent to other higher education institutions.

Colorado’s legislature also passed a measure that would use outcome measures such as student retention and completion rates to determine an institution’s state funding. Currently, the bill has been sent to the governor for signature. Much of the proposed legislation is vague, and if signed into law, such details would be determined by the Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Postsecondary Attainment Plans

Oregon lawmakers added apprenticeships to its higher education attainment plan, also known as the “40-40-20” goal. The plan, which was launched in 2011, states that by 2025 all adult Oregonians will hold a high school diploma or equivalency (the remaining 20 percent), 40 percent will have an associate’s degree or meaningful postsecondary credential, and 40 percent will hold a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree. Under this newest addition, apprenticeships registered with the State Apprenticeship and Training Council now qualify as a meaningful postsecondary credential.

Washington adopted two statewide education attainment goals as part of its 10-year higher education roadmap, which was originally unveiled in 2013. The Washington Student Achievement Council detailed these goals in a report it sent to the legislature in December and includes benchmarks necessary to reach them. The goals are for all Washington adults will have a high school diploma or equivalent and at least 70 percent of Washington adults will have a postsecondary credential.

Bachelor’s Degrees at Community Colleges

Following in the footsteps of more than 20 other states, Colorado also authorized community colleges to offer applied science bachelor’s degrees. While one more state joined a growing list, another decided to step back, momentarily.  The Florida legislature placed a one-year moratorium that prohibits the state’s community colleges from adding any new four-year degree programs. With 24 colleges offering a total of 175 degree programs and the number of such degrees awarded doubling in 2013, lawmakers became concerned that colleges were overstepping their bounds.

Did we miss something related to higher education in your state? Drop us an email!

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Catching Up With … State Legislatures

May 16th, 2014

Across the country, almost half of state legislatures have rapped the gavel for the last time to close their regular sessions for 2014. Given the strong focus on issues relating to Career Technical Education (CTE) throughout 2013 and in many governors’ state of the state addresses, we’ve decided to take stock of how CTE fared in the first quarter of the year.

Over the next few weeks, we will launch a series of blog posts catching up with highlights from the 2014 session. The first series will focus on the 25 legislatures that had finished as of May 9 and will be divided thematically. Another round will roll out this summer once the remaining sessions end. Legislatures in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin conduct business throughout the year, and activity will be covered as it is passed, along with other relevant policies enacted by State Boards of Education, Governors’ Offices and key state agencies.

This series is not meant to be all-encompassing but rather a high-level overview of the states’ legislative activity. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Spring Meeting Recap: CTE a Growing Priority for State Associations

April 9th, 2014

Leaders from three major education associations – representing key state policymakers and education leaders – discussed their growing interest and key initiatives related to CTE on Wednesday April 3 at NASDCTEc’s Spring meeting. The overarching theme from the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE): while CTE hasn’t necessarily been a key area of focus in the past, it certainly is going to be moving forward.

Kristen Amundson, Executive Director of NASBE, noted that given the lack of movement at the federal level on any education policies, including Perkins, the real leverage point is the states. She mentioned some emerging work of NASBE to convene a career council and a tech council, which will pull together state board of education members, CTE educators and leaders, and representatives from business/industry to identify how to best structure state-level CTE policies. She laid out some common challenges with CTE policy – how to measure career readiness, how to break down the “academic” and “CTE” worlds – and that NASBE would also focus on identifying innovative programs and practices to share with their network.

Next, Steven Bowen, Strategic Initiative Director for Innovation at CCSSO, announced a new Career Readiness Task Force being launched this month. This task force – largely instigated by CCSSO’s current chair, Terry Holliday the State Superintendent of Kentucky – will meet over six months to develop a set of recommendations for state CTE policy and touch on Perkins as well. Early areas of focus include standards, secondary-postsecondary alignment, assessing career readiness and addressing barriers to access. Kim Green, NASDCTEc’s executive director, will serve on this task force, along with NASDCTEc’s President John Fischer and Vice President Scott Stump.

Finally, Stephen Parker the NGA’s Legislative Director shared the governors’ perspective on CTE. First he noted that CTE and workforce development were among the most common education priorities identified in the 2014 State of the State addresses (see here and here for NASDCTEc’s take on these addresses). While many governors are exploring state-level policies and levers to support CTE, they have also encouraged the NGA to develop principles for Perkins reauthorization. Last week, coinciding with the Spring meeting, the NGA held conference calls with many State CTE Directors participating to open dialogue. Parker noted that some of the emerging priorities include more state-level flexibility in supporting innovation, a clearer and stronger gubernatorial role, the removal of red tape and the need to address maintenance of effort.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

 

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