State Leaders Are Prioritizing Workforce Readiness but the Data to Get There Is Missing

Data Systems That Work
State Leaders Are Prioritizing Workforce Readiness but the Data to Get There Is Missing

Workforce readiness takes center stage in most education policy conversations these days. With last year’s reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (now known as the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act or Perkins V), state leaders are increasingly focused on how they can improve and increase access to high-quality career technical education (CTE) programs. With more attention being paid to this important work, state leaders must be transparent about which kinds of CTE programs are being offered, who is accessing them, and how participants fare once they’re finished. To do this, states need to collect data that is meaningful and share it in ways that people can access and use to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, CTE data currently available leaves most students and families in the dark.

According to a recent report from Advance CTE in collaboration with partners including Data Quality Campaign (DQC), less than half of State CTE Directors say their CTE data systems provide the information needed to assist in making decisions about program quality and initiatives at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. The majority of states report being able to collect learner-level data on a variety of career readiness measures at the secondary level, but for a variety of reasons this information isn’t found on states’ most public-facing resource about school quality, their school report card.

In January 2019, DQC reviewed every state’s report card and found that only 21 states included the number or percentage of students who completed a CTE program or earned an industry credential. Almost no state reported a separate graduation rate for CTE concentrators. How states chose to report this information also varied greatly, making it difficult at times to understand and interpret the data. Some states reported CTE certification rates as a standalone indicator, while others rolled it into a broader college and career readiness (CCR) indicator. Combined CCR indicators are simple (in theory) but often contain a variety of very different data points (such as CTE certifications earned, dual enrollment, and AP course completion rates) and that summary indicator is rarely broken out to give readers a clear picture of the outcomes for each of the included, and very different, measures.

Two states, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, stood out for the variety of data each include about students’ pathways, which DQC highlighted as bright spots. South Carolina reports detailed CTE data, including course enrollment and completion, credential attainment, and the types of industry credentials earned by career cluster (e.g., Business Management & Administration, Finance, etc.). Pennsylvania includes data about postsecondary pathways more broadly, such as military enlistment and postsecondary enrollment rates disaggregated by student group, as well as the percentage of students who have completed a work-based learning experience.

It’s certainly a positive step forward to see almost half of states beginning to include CTE data on their report cards, but more state leaders need to follow suit. By including CTE and career readiness data side by side with college-going rates, state leaders can help students and families see the value of CTE pathways. As states invest significant resources into further developing CTE programming, it is critical that they be transparent about program participation and student outcomes. In order for students to utilize these programs as paths to better outcomes, they must be equipped with the data needed to guide them there.

 

This blog post is also available as a story on Medium.