Better career readiness measure another year away

Better career readiness measure another year away

(Calif.) The state’s new system for evaluating school performance is likely to go at least one more year without more comprehensive indicators for measuring when a student is ready to enter the work force, according to a memo from the California Department of Education.

After several years of development, the CDE and the state board of education unveiled a web-based dashboard in March that allows parents, taxpayers and policymakers to view school performance based on a number of key measures including test scores, graduation rates, absenteeism and parent engagement.

Officials have struggled, however, to come up with a good way for measuring career readiness beyond calling on schools to simply identify the number of students that have completed a career technical education pathway—a solution that was roundly criticized by the members of the California State Board of Education last summer.

But in a memo to the board this week, CDE staff reported that a task force working on the issue has conceded that they are still not ready to recommend any new enhancements.

The advisory panel, known as the College/Career Indicator Work Group, is looking at ways to include work experience as an additional measurement, but more analysis will be needed.

“The CCI Work Group unanimously agreed that the definitions for these data were not specific or rigorous enough to include in the CCI as a career measure at this time,” the CDE said in its memo to the board. “As a result, the CCI Work Group determined that no additional career measures can be incorporated in the CCI for the Fall 2017 Dashboard. The inclusion of CTE pathways provides the only viable career data currently available and is incorporated in three of the nine CCI criteria.”

Although California might be a trend-setter nationally in building an accountability system that relies on multiple measures—as opposed to just test scores—identifying standards for career readiness has been elusive.  But they are not alone.

According to a report earlier this year by the University of Pennsylvania, at least 14 other states have ambiguous definitions for how schools should be preparing students for a career upon graduation, or lack standards altogether.

Only 11 states had high specificity ratings, and 24 had medium ratings, including the District of Columbia. Wisconsin requested that the center not publish its state data, according to the study.

Georgia has in place the most extensive approach to prepare students for the workforce that begins in first grade and intensifies through grade 12 through comprehensive in-class lessons, assessments and job trainings in 96 different career pathways, the university research team reported.

Some of the complication that California has run into relates to finding measures that are consistent between schools and districts. In its July memo—in advance of this month’s meeting of the state board—the CDE said that there are more than 15,000 career technical courses statewide. But the content of the courses isn’t clear.

There is also some interest in using performance scores of students enrolled in the California Partnership Academies. The academies are small learning communities within larger high schools where academic and career-based learning is integrated.