Progress on measuring career readiness proves elusive

Progress on measuring career readiness proves elusive

(Calif.) A four-year journey to identify student performance indicators of college and career readiness will continue on at least for another couple of months following direction issued Wednesday by the California State Board of Education.

Facing an end of the year federal deadline for restructuring the entire school accountability system, the state board tossed back to staff a proposed readiness matrix largely because of failings to gauge the progress of  students that are more likely to join the work force after high school instead of attending college.

“There is a fundamental flaw in the fact that this model is not balanced in looking at both academic factors and the diversity of career preparation in our schools,” said board member Patricia Rucker. “When you look at the elements that are listed in this model you see academic, academic, academic and then career pathways.

“There is no diversity in how we define ‘career preparation’ and ‘career access’ in this model,” she said.

California officials are not alone in their struggle to develop career readiness indicators that reach beyond test scores and certification awards. Academics and policy makers nationwide are equally stymied, in part, because of the need not only to identify an indicator, but also to derive outcome data from the measure that is both valid and reliable.

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act late last year by Congress, states have been given the freedom and the responsibility to build new accountability systems that measure academic achievement, high school graduation rates, progress among English learners and at least one additional indicator of school quality.

States must have the new systems submitted to the U.S. Department of Education early next year with an expected launch at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

California’s efforts to reduce the role of standardized testing began in 2012 with passage of legislation that called for multiple measures to be used in evaluating student and school performance. Only a year later, Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his Local Control Funding Formula, which restructured state funding for schools and introduced the Local Control Accountability Plan that requires districts to set goals for dozens of performance benchmarks, including school climate and parent and pupil engagement in addition to academic outcomes.

Wednesday’s hearing on the accountability update leaves just two more on the calendar before the board will need to take final action and send the new plan off for federal review.

Although concerns were raised about many other aspects of the new accountability program by more than 100 speakers attending the hearing, much of the board’s focus was on the readiness indicator perhaps because it is so critical to evaluating the millions of students at risk of dropping out of high school.

Compared to the numerous measures available for college readiness, other board members agreed there needs to be an emphasis on finding a balance between college and career indicators.

“There has been a lot of money put into career pathways and districts are really working hard on this,” said Ilene Straus, state board vice president. “We need to work out a balance of academics and career readiness, and I think we need some more work on this.”

Rucker also noted that a number of “access points for students in career preparation” were not included in the model presented at Wednesday’s meeting, including career technical education programs or industry or national certifications.

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