In an education and workforce landscape that is more complex than ever, quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programming provides students with experience and skills that can lead to high-value jobs and lifelong success. The passage of the Strengthening Career Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) pushed states to improve quality and increase equity within their CTE systems, including setting higher expectations for how states are using data about CTE programs to understand the outcomes of students they serve. In October 2020, Advance CTE released “The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of States’ Perkins V Priorities,” which examines how states have leveraged the opportunities create by the updated law to meet their CTE goals, including whether states have prioritized investments in data to ensure that they can answer priority questions and measure progress toward those goals. While many states are making improvements to CTE data, more can be done to ensure that these efforts result in meaningful information for all stakeholders.
Perkins V Creates A Foundation for Better Data Practices.
Perkins V puts greater emphasis on the importance of data as a core element of good policy-making, including:
- promoting evidence-based decision making,
- making data available and accessible so that all stakeholders can use it to identify and close access and opportunity gaps among learners,
- providing transparent dashboards and other tools that enable communities to explore performance data for all groups of students served by CTE programs,
- ensuring programs are well aligned with labor market needs, and
- investing in the programs and learner supports that lead to the best outcomes for each learner.
States should embrace and thoughtfully implement all of these activities and continue to go beyond what is outlined in the law to enhance the quality and availability of CTE data, and to build trust and fuel the feedback loops that help demonstrate program efficacy. With better information, leaders, practitioners and learners will have the capacity and confidence to make data-informed decisions that result in better outcomes.
States Are Taking Steps to Improve the Availability and Usability of CTE Data.
Based on Advance CTE’s analysis of state Perkins V plans, a number of states are prioritizing data in their implementation of Perkins, including:
- More than one-third of states (19 total) are developing new public reporting tools for their CTE programs. Many of these investments appear to be aimed at equity-related data tools or related visualizations. More broadly, about a half of states (53 percent) are providing dashboards or other data reports to support equity gap analyses at the local level.
- Another third of states (17 total) are directing at least some of their State Leadership funds to support data quality improvement and expanding CTE data collection capacity.
- Eight percent of states are using the reserve fund for data quality and reporting.
- Hawai‘i is using a monitoring framework, informed by a data reporting application, that will identify which CTE programs have disparities, misalignments, or inequities in program offerings, participation and achievement of educational and workforce outcomes to develop improvement strategies that address the root causes.
- Washington is investing Perkins funds to improve labor market tools. One is a public dashboard that will support predicting new and existing employment opportunities and future trends. Another dashboard will display data disaggregated by student subgroup, special population status, and CTE program, which will only be available to colleges. The dashboards will be updated annually as enrollment and completion data from the previous year become available.
The Work Ahead
Many states are embracing the opportunities afforded to them under the new law, yet more work lies ahead. Improving CTE data affects not only the field of CTE, but the full education to workforce (P-20W) ecosystem within a state with which CTE is interconnected. As states plan for next steps when it comes to investing CTE resources, they should:
- Ensure that CTE data is understandable and usable by a wide array of stakeholders to support high stakes decision-making (e.g., to support resource allocation decisions to equitably serve each learner);
- Invest in the data infrastructure underlying states’ CTE systems so that it robust and ready to be connected to data in other state systems that can provide value back to CTE leaders (e.g., while there are some notable exceptions to this finding, state investments in postsecondary data infrastructure are largely absent as part of the Perkins V planning process).
- Expand the audience for and attention on CTE data by including it alongside other data on prominent, public-facing tools like state and local report cards required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
- As Perkins V implementation gets more fully underway, ensure that CTE leaders are at the table with other state leaders so that future federal and state investments in systems and capacity include CTE data and result in improvements to CTE data quality and availability at all levels.
- Advance CTE Resource Center: Data and Accountability
- The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of States’ Perkins V Priorities
- Beyond the Numbers: Design Principles for CTE Data Reporting
- Beyond the Numbers: A Toolkit for Communicating CTE Data
- The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness
- CTE Data Puts Meaningful Information about Student Pathways in the Hands of Policymakers
Christina Koch, Policy Associate
Jane Clark, Associate Director, Policy and Advocacy, Data Quality Campaign