New Research Highlights the Value of “And” in College And Career
College is often considered a safe bet, but new research from the Center for Public Education (CPE) finds that comparable opportunity can be found in rigorous high school programs that result in a professional certification. In the third installment of its “Path Least Taken” series, CPE compares social and economic outcomes between students with a four-year college degree and “high-credentialed” students with no degree (the paper defines “high-credentialed” students as those who demonstrated success in high school academic and technical courses and obtained a professional certification).
The study finds that “high-credentialed” students with no degree were just as likely to be employed full-time, be satisfied with their jobs and to vote in a recent election by age 26 as students with four-year degrees. The study also finds that, among students who pursued but did not complete a postsecondary degree, those who graduated from a rigorous high school program had more positive social and economic outcomes overall. This demonstrates that rigorous college and career preparation in high school can serve as a powerful economic safety net along the path to a higher degree.
Evaluation Finds Opportunity in Accelerating Opportunity Program
In other news, Urban Institute and the Aspen Institute released an evaluation of Accelerating Opportunity (AO), a program designed to help adults with low basic skills earn occupational credentials and obtain well-paying jobs. One innovation that AO uses is to change the delivery of adult education by pairing basic skill instruction and technical education so that students can earn Career Technical Education (CTE) credits and a high school credential concurrently, placing adults without a high school degree on a path towards a high-wage, high-skill job.
The evaluation finds interesting outcomes from the first three years of the program. Of the more than 8 thousand students enrolled in evaluated states (Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana), one-third engaged in work-based learning and 30 percent found a job related to the occupational area of their pathway within the first three years. The report highlights further opportunities for states to align adult education and CTE in community colleges.
Diving Into Postsecondary Data Systems
Without labor market outcomes and participation data for students in CTE programs, it is difficult for policymakers to identify challenges or scale successes. That’s why a strong state-level data system is core to an effective CTE strategy. At the postsecondary level, linked data systems (also known as postsecondary student unit record systems or PSURSs) can improve program efficiency, advance student success and provide useful information to policymakers.
A new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) examines national trends across state data collection agencies. The report draws on survey data to illustrate the scope of state-level PSURSs and the strategies states are using to link their data systems with others in the education and workforce continuum. The report finds that 26 states currently enable the linking of postsecondary, workforce and K-12 data in a P20W data warehouse — up from eight in 2010. While these trends are promising, the report issues four concluding recommendations for policymakers to improve and further expand state-level PSURSs:
- Tie the PSURSs to strategic planning efforts;
- Engage agency leadership regarding the capabilities of the data system and collaborate on research priorities;
- Address privacy concerns head on; and
- Serve the needs of constituents.
The report precedes an infographic released last week from the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, the Postsecondary Data Collaborative and SHEEO. The sleek infographic maps postsecondary and workforce data systems and illuminates the most common gaps in state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). Filling these gaps is important not only to provide data to policymakers and researchers but also to increase transparency for college-going students and their parents.
Odds and Ends
- The National Center for Education Statistics released a “Data Point” brief that compares postsecondary outcomes for two cohorts of public high school graduates: the class of 1992 and the class of 2004. The brief finds the largest increase in enrollment rates for graduates earning four or more CTE credits.
- Families can play a critical role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning, but many of them are not equipped to support their children along a STEM career pathway. To combat this challenge, the National PTA Association’s new white paper, STEM + Families, draws on findings from a national scan of the family engagement landscape to provide recommendations for engaging families around STEM learning.
- Omicron Tau Theta (OTT), a national honorary professional graduate society in CTE, released its quarterly compilation of research, trends and teaching strategies in the field. This month’s issue of Professionalism to Practice features research around agricultural education and strategies for CTE instruction.
- A Snapshot Report from the National Student Clearinghouse examines postsecondary degree records to reveal an interesting finding: two in five associate degrees led to bachelor’s degrees within six years. This emphasizes the need for strong alignment between two-year and four-year institutions of higher education.
- Researchers from Cornell University recently found that, while CTE programs in blue-collar communities do lead to high-wage jobs after high school, many women in these communities are being left out. As a result, women in blue-collar communities end up with worse professional prospects and lower salaries than men in the same communities.
- The National Skills Coalition is out with a follow up to its 2014 playbook for implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), appropriately titled Realizing Innovation and Opportunity in WIOA. Among other strategies, the playbook discusses how states can integrate effective career pathways into their WIOA state plans.
Austin Estes, Policy Associate