More Progress is Needed in Data Systems for Career and Technical Education

By Bryan Wilson, April 18, 2019

National Skills Coalition’s Workforce Data Quality Campaign has partnered with Advance Career Technical Education (CTE) and other organizations to produce the new report, The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness. Among the report’s key findings are that more states should use administrative records to measure outcomes for students and link records across secondary, postsecondary, and workforce sectors. States can address these shortcomings as they begin developing their State Plans for Perkins and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that will be due to federal agencies in 2020.

The report is based on data from a 50-state survey that was issued to State Career and Technical Education (CTE) Directors in fall 2018. A total of 51 State Directors completed the survey, representing 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia.

While progress is being made, too many states continue to rely on outdated or unreliable methods, particularly surveys, for collecting data on career readiness and learner outcomes. Student surveys suffer from problems of validity and reliability, while also being expensive. At the postsecondary level, 33 percent of State Directors report using student surveys to measure post-program employment and 31 percent to measure further education or training for postsecondary program completers.

A more reliable and valid method for measuring post-program outcomes is to link student records with other administrative records held by state agencies and the National Student Clearinghouse. Forty-five percent of State Directors report collecting post-program employment data through an agreement with their state Department of Labor or another related agency. Forty-one percent identify learners who continue their postsecondary education or training through a partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (commonly referred to as Perkins V) includes provisions that can help states address these challenges. In Perkins V, Congress consciously worked to better align Perkins with WIOA and other acts. Congress aligned the planning cycle for Perkins with the planning cycle for WIOA, so that both state plans will be due to federal agencies about a year from now. In addition, states may submit a combined plan that includes both Perkins and WIOA. Perkins also calls for states to align the collection of data with the collection of data for other federal and state programs. Workforce agencies have over twenty years of experience in using administrative data and data linking across sectors for WIOA and its predecessor act.

As states begin to develop their four-year State Perkins and WIOA Plans there is an opportunity to work together to identify how their state will use administrative records and data linking to measure outcomes and align data collection.

The State of Career and Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness was developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co, and was developed in partnership with the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, a project of the National Skills Coalition, and the Data Quality Campaign.