OVAE Connection - Issue 163 - August 15, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                              August 15, 2013 - Issue 163

Oregon Takes CTE Seriously in Its Common Core Standards Implementation

The state of Oregon’s integration of CTE into its Common Core State Standards (CCSS) was featured at the Association for Career and Technical Education's May webinar Oregon's Trail: How the State Integrates Career and Technical Education Into Common Core Implementation. Education Daily featured an article on the webinar’s presenters from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). Tom Thompson, a specialist in industrial and engineering systems in the ODE’s Secondary-Postsecondary Transitions Office and Jennell Ives, an education specialist with ODE’s CTE health sciences student support services. 

Thompson explained that CTE was part of his state’s consideration of how to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) from the beginning and that when ODE looked at whether CTE fit into its CCSS and mapped out all the terms in the descriptions for both math and literacy, the commonality with CTE was clear. Focusing on the process for rolling out the standards, Ives explained that Oregon used both a steering committee and a stewardship team to assure that all relevant interests were represented and heard. In addition to the alignment of CTE and the standards, Oregon examined the alignment of CTE and the assessment it will use beginning in 2014 to measure the outcomes of the standards, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

In all of its work, the Oregon team thought hard about how to prepare CTE students for the Common Core assessments, learned a lot by looking at how other states were “cross-mapping” the CCSS and CTE standards, and, as a result, struggled with what it means to be “college and career ready.” One thing is certain, according to Ives: “… our definition of career and college readiness will be tied in with the new assessments that will be in place to measure the Common Core measures and standards.”

To Complete or Not to Complete

                                    New Evidence = New Advice for Community College Students

A National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) report, in partnership with the Indiana University Project on Academic Success, was released earlier this month, Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions. And data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicate that nearly a quarter of all students who began their postsecondary education at a public, two-year institution in the 2003–04 academic year transferred to a four-year institution within six years. Transfer is a key mission of community colleges, and, as the NSCRC notes, accurately understanding the pathways and outcomes of these students is critical to the national college completion agenda.

The report uses NSCRC data to track the six-year-outcomes of over 320,000 students who began their postsecondary educations at two-year institutions and transferred within six years to a four-year institution during the 2005–06 academic year. The report shows that more than 60 percent of these transfer students earned a bachelor’s degree or higher within six years after transfer, and another 8 percent were still enrolled and making steady progress toward a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree attainment rates were significantly higher for students who transferred to a four-year institution after having completed a sub-baccalaureate credential. Seventy-two percent of transfer students who completed a two-year degree or certificate prior to transferring graduated with a bachelor’s degree, while only 56 percent of those who transferred without a credential did so. However, only 36 percent of students in the cohort had completed a sub-baccalaureate credential prior to transferring.

Other key findings from the report:

  • Men and women had similar outcomes.

  • Students who transferred after stopping out for more than one year had much lower graduation rates than those who transferred within one year of their most recent enrollment at a two-year institution.

  • Students who attended exclusively full-time after transferring graduated at higher rates than those who attended exclusively part-time or those with mixed enrollment.

  • Bachelor’s degree completion rates were significantly lower for students who transferred to private, for-profit institutions than for those who transferred to public or private, nonprofit institutions.

In a similar research vein, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) recently published a working paper, The Economic Benefits of Attaining an Associate Degree Before Transfer: Evidence From North Carolina, that employs a cost-benefit analysis to determine which type of two- to four-year college transfer would most likely lead to a student graduating with a four-year degree. After examining evidence for the likelihood of bachelor’s degree attainment and post-college labor market outcomes for community college students in North Carolina under various scenarios, the author concluded that it is preferable for community colleges students to complete an associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution than to transfer prior to completion.

Taken together, these two studies provide strong evidence in favor of community colleges advising their students to complete sub-baccalaureate credentials before transferring to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Improving Workforce Training Performance Through Improving State-Level Data Systems

Results for America and the Hamilton Project recently released Using Data to Improve the Performance of Workforce Training, a report that proposes solutions for each state to improve the training choices of its workers so that they have a better chance of completing their training and increase their earning potential. According to authors Louis S. Jacobson and Robert J. LaLonde, the goal of the report is to provide better data and measures for developing information systems that have the potential to improve training outcomes for workers with various academic preparations, abilities to use data, workplace skills, and interests.

As reinforced in the report, the earnings gap between skilled and unskilled workers stands at an historic high. Training programs are, therefore, key to providing low-income individuals with the opportunities they need to qualify for jobs allowing them to enter the middle class and for providing displaced workers with a chance to regain a significant portion of their lost earnings. Yet, although some training programs provide opportunities for low-income individuals, millions of workers pursue career and technical training programs that do not fit their needs. In short, workers are making “poor choices” according to the authors’ findings. Some workers do not complete their training programs, others find that their new skills do not match the needs of local employers, and many others are reluctant to risk investing time and money into training programs due to uncertainty about the outcomes.

Jacobson and LaLonde assert that this problem could be resolved by helping workers make better choices. To do this, they propose establishing a state-based solutionin effect, a competition in which states are incentivized to use their own longitudinal data systems to fill major information gaps, create relevant information, and deliver it in a meaningful way. This plan would aim to increase the return on training investments by developing the data and measures necessary to provide the information prospective trainees need to make better training choices. This would be done using a mix of online systems and assistance from career counselors. The online systems could be accessed at workers’ homes, public libraries, campus career centers, and public one-stop career centers.

The competition would build on the progress that states have already made in assembling data on worker training programs by encouraging them to develop innovative dissemination systems leading to better training choices. The authors have defined four essential building blocks to the competition: 1) assembling the data necessary to make sound decisions and organizing it to produce relevant measures, 2) measuring the payoffs to training programs in order to identify high-return courses and fields, 3) disseminating information using computer-based and staff-based systems in a such a way that training choices improve, and 4) sustaining cost-effective systems after evaluating those dissemination methods to find the most effective ones. While the primary competition focus would be on aiding prospective trainees to make the best possible choices, the proposed competition would also create incentives for administrators and policy-makers to respond to changes in those choices— by moving resources from low-return programs to high-return programs where more workers end up with better jobs.