February is National Career and Technical Education Month, a time to recognize opportunities to help students prepare for success in the workforce by pursuing high-quality training and credentials. It’s also a time to examine the disconnect between policy and practice.

Student pathways to success have changed. More than ever, students have a wide range of options for pathways during and after high school, including through career and technical education (CTE). Students need data to be able to consider these different pathways and make decisions that align with their career goals, even as jobs and the economy continue to shift and evolve. Students and families deserve high-quality data on the training and credentials that lead to careers with financial independence and opportunities for advancement in the future.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), states are charged with understanding and supporting students’ transitions into the workforce. But information about the quality and outcomes of CTE programs, including credentials earned, is limited, leaving families, students, and policymakers to make critical decisions in the dark. We cannot, as a field, move the needle forward on a strong workforce without timely access to meaningful data that informs decisions and investments.

Here’s how this can change:

1. Make data work for students by collecting and linking information to develop robust indicators that reflect outcomes beyond high school.

This is tough work – it includes questions about what needs to be measured and how that data will be protected. Here are resources to use as you’re thinking about asking these important questions:

  • The Data Quality Campaign’s roadmap outlines how policymakers can use their unique position to bring leaders together and ensure state investments reflect the value of workforce data to families and students. These investments enable states to have the evidence needed to support students on the path to and through high-quality education and workforce programs, including CTE.
  • The Education Strategy Group’s framework for state leaders breaks down how states can use data to prioritize the credentials that have value in the labor market and ensure students are supported on these pathways.
  • The open-source, credential transparency description language (CTDL) hosted by Credential Engine is designed to support the search for and comparison of all types of credentials, including their content and competencies, indicators of quality, connections and pathways, and labor market outcomes to assist with making informed decisions.

2. Publicly report data on CTE programs to help families and students become better consumers and decisionmakers.

Some states are leading the way in sharing critical information on the outcomes of CTE programs to help inform the decisions of families and students.

  • Ohio publishes annual report cards for their career-technical planning districts with data on student academic and technical achievement, how well-prepared CTE students are for future opportunities, and post-CTE program outcomes, including earning industry credentials.
  • The Kentucky Center for Statistics produces an interactive Career and Technical Education Feedback Report that examines the postsecondary and workforce outcomes of students who complete various CTE programs, like allied health and carpenter assistant.
  • Other states – Indiana, New Jersey, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado, and Washington – have partnered with Credential Engine to provide high-quality, understandable information on CTE programs to the public. Through these partnerships, states are contributing to a shared registry that puts up-to-date information on credentials in the hands of families and students and ensure evidence-based decision making.

This CTE Month, we recognize the opportunities for student success on all education and workforce pathways. But we also recognize the lack of data guiding the conversations, decisions, and ultimately the outcomes of students pursuing these pathways. Data is the key to making CTE work for students and it’s up to state leaders to create the policies and practices that enable this data to be understood and used by the public.


This blog was originally published by the Data Quality Campaign. To see the original post, please click here.

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