It is common practice in the private sector to use big data to improve efficiency, strengthen product quality and better target services to customers. Can data also be used to improve the quality of public education, specifically Career Technical Education (CTE)?
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) gives states the opportunity to use data more strategically to improve quality and equity in CTE. While states have been collecting data for years on student performance in CTE programs, Perkins V pushes them to make more informed decisions about program approval and alignment, equity and access, and program improvement. In particular, states can drive program improvement through the new secondary CTE program quality indicator, a state-selected measure that will be included in each state’s accountability system starting in the 2020-21 program year.
To help states select and define a robust measure of secondary CTE program quality, Advance CTE – in partnership with the Data Quality Campaign; the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, a project of the National Skills Coalition; Education Strategy Group; and the Council of Chief State School Officers – developed a series of short briefs highlighting each of the three indicator options:
- The percentage of CTE concentrators graduating from high school having attained a recognized postsecondary credential.
- The percentage of CTE concentrators graduating from high school having attained postsecondary credits in the relevant CTE program or program of study earned through a dual or concurrent enrollment program or another credit transfer agreement.
- The percentage of CTE concentrators graduating from high school having participated in work-based learning.
Each brief examines the pros and cons of each indicator, describes different state approaches, and offers meaningful considerations for implementation. The reports also draw on survey data from one of Advance CTE’s latest report, The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness to describe common approaches to collecting and validating program quality data.
Choosing a secondary CTE program quality indicator is a decision state leaders should not take lightly. This choice will send a clear signal to the field about state priorities for CTE and create an incentive structure that will be in place for years to come. To make an informed and thoughtful decision, state leaders should consider:
- What is the statewide vision for CTE and career readiness?
- What do stakeholders identify as priorities?
- Which experiences are equitably available to learners across the state?
- Is there any evidence to demonstrate which experiences are more highly correlated with positive post-program outcomes?
- What information is currently available at the state level?
- Are the data reliable, accurate and well defined?
- How can the program quality indicator align with other metrics the state is collecting?
The Measuring Secondary CTE Program Quality briefs are available in the Learning that Works Resource Center at this link. Advance CTE is also available to provide input and expertise to states as they select and define their Perkins V accountability measures.
Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate