Posts Tagged ‘systems alignment’

Learning from CTE Research Partnerships: How Michigan Built Trust with Researchers to Better Understand State Data

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

As part of our ongoing blog series aimed at increasing state research on career and technical education (CTE), Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate at Advance CTE, and Corinne Alfeld, Research Analyst at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), are conducting interviews with individuals who are part of successful CTE State Director research partnerships. The first interview was with Jill Kroll of the Michigan Department of Education and Dan Kreisman of Georgia State University (and Director of CTEx). [Note: this interview has been edited for length; you can find the full interview transcript here].

The first question we have is about the projects that you work on together: what were some of the research questions you came up with, and how did you come to settle on those research questions?

Jill – I first connected with Dan and with Brian Jacob at University of Michigan when I saw Brian present to our P-20 council about some research that he was doing connecting the wage record data for five community colleges. I was like “Gee, is there any way you can do something similar with the statewide secondary student data?” And he said it was possible. So I worked within our department procedures to find out how we could go about establishing a relationship that would allow this opportunity.

Dan – That led to a whole bunch of other discussions of things that we thought were interesting. So, to say that there is a set of research questions is not the way I view our relationship. We talk with folks in Jill’s office regularly to hear what questions are pressing for them, and then we try to help facilitate answering those and then see where those lead us. I think one of the important things is we try to think about where there are policy levers, so we want to say “If we answer this question, how can the state or the districts use that information to further their mission of providing CTE programming to students in Michigan?”

Jill – I’ve been really happy with the extent to which Dan and the research team have consistently focused on the “so what?” Rather than focusing on vague research questions of interest only to other researchers, they have emphasized their interest in doing research that has practical application, that can be used by educators in the field.

Could you share an example of how you’ve been able to use some of this evidence and research to change policy, or at least to shape your understanding on some decisions that you’re making at the state level?

Jill – When we were starting to work on our Perkins V [the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act] state plan, we had a short time to determine what we wanted to consider for our secondary indicator of program quality. Because Brian, Dan, and their students had been working with this data for so many years, they had the capacity to very quickly do the matching and come up with an approximation for us about what postsecondary credit attainment would look like, and what strengths and weaknesses they saw in the data. It would have been really difficult for our office, or even multiple state agencies, to have been able to work that quickly and give it the critical analysis that they did.

The other thing they did when we were making the decision for that indicator is look at the data that we had for work-based learning and tell us what could be done with it. What came out of that was that the data was not in any form that could be analyzed (text and PDFs). This was really revealing to our State Director Brian Pyles, and it led him to set a policy that we are going to build a consistent way of collecting data on work-based learning. So that is another piece where it influenced practice and policy. One of the most exciting and valuable things that I find about the partnership is that Dan and the other researchers have a lot more capacity to analyze the data in a way that we just don’t have the time to do. Sometimes we don’t have the expertise, and sometimes we just don’t look at the data in the same way.

Dan –And there’s a flip side that without their input, we often are looking at data and can’t make heads or tails of something. And we can get on the phone or write an email to someone over there and say “Hey we’re seeing this thing. Can you tell me what that means?” And they will come back with “Oh, the system changed” or “There was this one policy,” and “Here’s what you have to do to make it fit everything else.” And this happens all the time. We would be completely lost without this open channel that we have to their office.

I think it’s important not to dismiss the power of good descriptive work. Lots of times, the questions that states are grappling with can often be illuminated with some really careful and good descriptive work. You can say, “This is what we’re seeing, this is the big picture,” if you step back for a minute, and that information lots of times has been as valuable as the stuff we try to do that is more causally oriented in our research.

Jill – I agree, and I want to follow up on the whole issue of how important trust is. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to me that Dan and the other researchers come to us with those questions, that they check in with us. That’s absolutely critical. Anyone who works with any kind of data knows that it’s just so complex. If you link tables wrong, or misunderstand a data field, you can come to a completely wrong decision. So that communication and that interaction and trust are key to accurate outcomes.

As you’re both looking ahead, what’s next on the agenda? What are some of the research questions and priorities you have for this partnership?

Dan – Number one is tracking students into the labor market. That’s our biggest and most outstanding question. And the degree to which CTE programs are preparing students for college and the labor market and careers. In terms of other projects, one of the things we’re interested in is technical assessments. We’re also part of a consortium of several states – that’s the CTEx group. We meet annually together, and that allows us to harmonize things across states to see how trends are similar, how enrollment rates work, all sorts of different questions across multiple states.

Jill – One of the things we’re talking about right now is that we don’t have, in an accessible form, data on access to a particular program. We know that career centers serve certain districts, but if someone asked, “If student A is going to Central High School, what programs do they have access to? we don’t have a good way of answering that at the moment. We’ve had a couple of discussions about how we can work together to build basically a dataset that clarifies that. That would be mutually beneficial and would take resources from both in order to do something like that.

Thinking back on this partnership, is there any advice you would give to other State Directors or CTE researchers?

Dan – Building a strong relationship is the first thing you have to do. And part of that is spending time face to face talking about questions, moving around ideas, looking at data together. We had the benefit of a long windup period. We spent at least a year just talking about questions and putting together data before we even started doing any analyses. We also had buy-in from Jill’s office up and down the line from folks who were doing the research to people who were in policymaking roles. And without all of that, none of this would even have been possible.

And the second part is to not downplay the value of just providing good information. A lot of us on the research side don’t realize how little time folks in the state offices have to take a step back and say, “What’s going on with our data? Let’s look at the big picture.” And one of the things we can provide them is just giving them that big picture and handing it to them in a digestible way. And doing that is the first step, is a really good way to start building that trust. They really see the value of what you can do early on. And then you can start to get into more difficult or longer-term questions.

Jill – The first advice I would give is: Do it! Partner with researchers. I can’t say enough positive about it. The second is: Follow department procedures and be transparent with department leadership. You know that windup might be really, really slow while you jog through the channels that you need to in your department to do things by the book, but I think it pays off in the long run.

My third one is: Be transparent and open with school districts. Share what you’re doing and invite their input. Anybody who works with state data would probably know, you’re always a little hesitant about what the public would think about this use of data. The way that Dan and the postdocs and graduate students have openly shared the work that they’ve done with our CTE administrators has really helped, in that I have not gotten any doubt from districts.

The full transcript can be accessed on Advance CTE’s website. Other blog posts in this series can be viewed here.

By Austin Estes in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

What Do State CTE Directors Want to Learn from the Research Community?

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Career Technical Education (CTE) is gaining widespread interest and support from state policymakers, who see it as a strategy to expand access to opportunity and meet employer needs. Between 2014 and 2018, states enacted roughly 800 policies related to CTE, and in 2019, workforce development was one of the top education-related priorities mentioned by governors in their state-of-the-state addresses.

What’s more, in 2018 Congress passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), which reauthorized the federal law for CTE and invests around $1.2 billion a year to strengthen and expand CTE programs. The law was enacted in July 2019 and will be in full effect in July 2020 after states submit their four-year plans for CTE to the U.S. Department of Education (see more about the Perkins V planning process here).

With CTE in the spotlight, State CTE Directors are working hard to improve quality and equity in CTE. But state CTE offices often do not have the staffing or resources to conduct rigorous program evaluations to learn what’s working and what needs improvement. By partnering with CTE researchers, State Directors can gain critical insights into the impact of CTE programs, policies and practices.

While the design, governance and delivery of CTE varies from state to state, there are several common questions and challenges across the country that CTE researchers can help address, particularly in light of Perkins V implementation:

Improving program quality: State leaders are working to improve CTE program quality by connecting secondary and postsecondary coursework, integrating academic and technical learning, aligning programs with labor market needs and expectations, and preparing learners to earn industry-recognized credentials of value. Tennessee, for example, recently revised its secondary CTE program standards and developed model CTE programs of study that meet statewide workforce needs. Answers to the following research questions would help fuel these efforts:

Ensuring equitable access and success in CTE: To reverse historical inequities in CTE, state leaders are using data to identify disparities and ensure each learner can access, fully participate in and successfully complete a high-quality CTE program of study. In Rhode Island, the Department of Education repurposed $1.2 million in state funds to launch an Innovation & Equity grant initiative, which provided resources to local recipients to recruit and support underrepresented student populations in high-quality programs. CTE researchers can help these efforts by addressing the following questions:

Improving the quality and use of CTE data: Most State Directors believe improving and enhancing their CTE data systems is a priority, but only 45 percent say they have the information they need at both the secondary and postsecondary levels to improve program quality. States like Minnesota (through the State Colleges and University System) are working to improve the validity and reliability of their data by collaborating with industry-recognized credential providers to obtain data for their students. CTE researchers can help state leaders improve data quality in two ways:

Fostering collaboration and alignment across state agencies: Supporting learner success requires cross-agency collaboration and coordination. State leaders are working to create seamless pathways by sharing data, coordinating program design, and braiding resources to achieve economies of scale. One example is Massachusetts, where Governor Charlie Baker established a cross-agency workforce skills cabinet to coordinate education, workforce, housing, and economic development. The following research questions would help accelerate the work in Massachusetts and other states:

Expanding career advisement opportunities: School counselors are the most trusted source of information on CTE and career options, and states are working to bolster their career advisement systems by reducing the counselor-to-student ratio, requiring each student to complete an individualized graduation plan, and developing user-friendly platforms for career exploration. In Oklahoma, for example, it is now policy for all students to identify their career and academic goals through the state’s new Individual Career and Academic Planning program. CTE researchers can help address the following questions:

As states chart a vision and path for the future of CTE, they can and should use their data to inform decisions. Researchers can help them collect and analyze high quality data to understand the relationships between CTE program elements and various learner outcomes. This can help them understand what is and isn’t working with current policy and practice and identify how to focus their efforts to improve quality and equity in CTE. In addition, researchers can help state directors plan and conduct rigorous evaluations as they roll out new CTE policies and programs. Over the next few months, Advance CTE and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will feature a series of successful partnerships between states and CTE researchers and explore how those projects provided critical data and insights to inform state policy.

This blog series was co-authored by Corinne Alfeld at IES (corinne.alfeld@ed.gov) and Austin Estes from Advance CTE (aestes@careertech.org). IES began funding research grants in CTE in 2017 and established a CTE Research Network in 2018. IES hopes to encourage more research on CTE in the coming years in order to increase the evidence base and guide program and policy decisions. At the same time, Advance CTE has been providing resources to help states improve their CTE data quality and use data more effectively to improve CTE program quality and equity.

By Austin Estes in Research
Tags: , , , , ,

Expanding Work-Based Learning Under ESSA and Perkins V

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

This blog was originally posted by the Education Commission of the States on the EdNote education policy blog. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

The World Economic Forum predicts that, by 2022, the widespread advancement of high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and cloud technology will transform up to 75 million jobs. To prepare for the future of work, today’s students need to know how to navigate an increasingly fluid, technology-based workforce — and work-based learning can help them get there.

Work-based learning — which can include low-exposure activities, such as career fairs or job shadowing, or intensive, sustained experiences, such as an internships or pre-apprenticeships — helps students gain real-world skills under the guidance and mentorship of industry professionals.

While work-based learning is often delivered at the local level in coordination with education and business leaders, states play a critical role in setting expectations and scaling work-based learning for all students. With new flexibility in both the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), state leaders have the opportunity to strengthen and scale work-based learning to ensure all students can develop real-world skills.

One specific leverage point between ESSA and Perkins V is accountability. Under ESSA, states are given the flexibility to choose a measure of school quality or student success that aligns with their visions and priorities for public education. Forty states adopted measures of career readiness in their accountability systems — more than double the number of states with career readiness indicators in 2014. Of those states, 12 are specifically counting work-based learning as a measure of success for high school students.

These states can take their ESSA accountability systems into consideration as they define and set performance targets for Perkins V. When Perkins V was reauthorized in 2018, Congress gave states the opportunity to choose a secondary CTE program quality indicator from among three options, one of which is a measure of work-based learning completion. This indicator only applies to the population of students graduating high school after concentrating in CTE programs, but states can still use the opportunity to align definitions, data collection cycles and reporting between Perkins V and ESSA to elevate the importance of work-based learning in high school.

State and local leaders can also braid funding from ESSA and Perkins to strengthen and expand work-based learning opportunities for students. State leaders can start by mapping different funding streams between each of the laws and identifying critical opportunities. For example, they can use ESSA funds to train school leaders on integrating rigorous academics and work-based learning and Perkins V leadership funds to establish and scale work-based learning opportunities for students. Working in tandem, both ESSA and Perkins V can be used in service of a broader statewide work-based learning initiative.

But state leaders should ground this work in a shared vision for work-based learning. A statewide vision sets common expectations and resources for those managing work-based learning experiences on the ground and can help build consensus through meaningful and sustained employer and stakeholder engagement.

This approach has been widely effective in Tennessee, where state leaders have made a coordinated effort to define and align expectations for work-based learning in order to achieve the state’s Drive to 55 goal of increasing the percentage of adults in the state with a postsecondary credential or certification. In 2014, the state board of education mapped out a framework for work-based learning to clearly articulate the expectations and components that would make up a high-quality experience. This framework has been used at the state and local levels to drive work-based learning delivery.

In short, work-based learning is a critical strategy to help learners develop the real-world skills and experiences they need to prepare for the future of work. State policymakers can expand access to work-based learning opportunities through ESSA and Perkins V implementation by aligning data collection and accountability, braiding funding and setting a statewide vision.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
Tags: , , , , ,

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

Thursday, 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

By Austin Estes in Advance CTE Resources, Publications, Research, Resources
Tags: , , ,

CTE and Workforce Systems Alignment: Lessons Learned from States

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Aligning systems is one of five key principles of the shared vision, Putting Learner Success First. System alignment can ensure a shared vision and commitment to seamless college and career pathways for every learner; by maximizing resources, reducing inefficiencies and holding systems accountable, every learner can have the supports they need to find success.

The recent enactment of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins IV), presents new opportunities to align Career Technical Education (CTE) and state workforce systems to strengthen and expand opportunities for learners. States have taken different approaches to align CTE and the workforce systems, from submitting Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) combined state plans with Perkins IV as a partner program to establishing strong connections between CTE and the workforce systems via strategic partnerships and plans. As states think about improving the effectiveness of this connection, it’s critical to reflect on and learn from states’ efforts to enhance CTE and workforce system alignment.

To inform this post, Advance CTE interviewed several State CTE Directors to learn about how they align CTE and workforce systems in their respective states. Below are key takeaways from those conversations and highlights of a few state examples.

Approaches to Promoting CTE and Workforce Systems Alignment
While states take different approaches to aligning CTE and workforce systems depending on their needs, some common approaches to aligning CTE and workforce systems emerged.

Systems Alignment Sustainability
Trend data from Advance CTE surveys since 2005 suggests that coordination between CTE and other state initiatives is more common when there is an external forcing event, such as state or federal legislation that triggers a statewide planning process. As states expand upon or strengthen their work to align CTE and workforce systems, they must consider how they will sustain systems alignment even when these statewide planning processes conclude.

Some states, such as West Virginia, established CTE and workforce systems alignment sustainability through building partnership infrastructure. West Virginia has a WIOA combined state plan with Perkins IV as a partner program, which helps to promote collaboration between the CTE and workforce systems. Representatives from the West Virginia Division of Technical, Adult and Institutional Education (WV-CTE) serve on the WIOA State Board and helped to develop the state goals articulated in the WIOA combined state plan. Representatives attend a quarterly WIOA group that meets to ensure that the state is making progress on the goals articulated in its WIOA plan.

Additionally, WV-CTE has a Governor’s Economic Initiative office within it that ensures CTE programs of study are aligned to industry needs and developed collaboratively between business, industry and education. West Virginia is able to sustain its CTE and workforce systems alignment through establishing statewide goals via the WIOA combined state plan, clearly defining roles through committees and establishing routine accountability checks.

Conclusion
CTE and workforce systems alignment is necessary to ensure that learners are on a path to securing in-demand, high-wage careers. While the state examples in this resource showcase the importance of elevating partnerships and collaboration to achieve alignment, CTE and workforce systems alignment can take many different forms. A state’s approach to CTE and workforce systems alignment should be guided by its state vision, goals and infrastructure.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 

Series

Archives

1