CTE Assessment

There is an old education phrase, "What gets tested, gets taught." Tests and assessments are essential for learning. This applies to Career and Technical Education as well.  In spite of public concerns on standardized assessment in education, assessments are positive aspects in Career and Technical Education programs -- often a requirement for earning an industry credential or certification.  The challenge for CTE teachers is understanding and preparing students for industry assessments and also preparing and using authentic assessments in the classroom. 

Various types of assessments are used to measure what a student knows and can do to demonstrate mastery within a career field. This assessment resource includes topics of:

Technical Assessments

Finding individual technical assessments that are nationally recognized and based on industry standards can be new turf to explore for educators. Industry associations often are a source for these assessments. Industry advisory committees and employers can be particularly valuable in identifying appropriate technical assessments and certifications for the CTE program.

Program Approval -The CTE Program Approval process requires selection of a technical assessment consisting of three parts: written, student demonstration and student project to measure student proficiency in the technical field for the program.  

Industry Credentials - The following are sources for industry certifications and assessments that schools might consider for various programs.

  • The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a Certification Finder as part of its career exploration tools. Using this database you can keyword search for industry credentials in various fields and related technical assessments. 
  • The Career Clusters project developed under the leadership of AdvanceCTE provides programs of study in most career pathways. Listed in the details of each of the Career Clusters is a list of Relevant Credentials for that cluster. This provides a number of leads for industry credentials, which might be appropriate for specific CTE programs.

Other CTE Assessment Sources - The following are several assessment organizations, which provide assessments in CTE areas.

  • NOCTI is one of the largest and most well-known assessment organizations. It was specifically created for the purpose of providing technical assessments in secondary CTE programs at a time that there were very few available for schools. Several of the assessments are co-sponsored by industry associations.
  • SkillsUSA Assessments from SkillsUSA were developed initially around offering student competitions in technical skills in several of the CTE program areas. It has now developed several technical assessments. One of these is in the area of employability.

Multiple Pathways – 4 + 1 Model

Within the NYS Diploma requirements, is an option, known as 4+1 Option.  One of the Pathway options is a CTE Pathway. The foundation for a CTE Pathway is an approved CTE program and the required component of a technical assessment. If the approved program assessment appears on the NYSED list of Approved Pathway Assessments in CTE then upon completing approved program requirements a student may complete a CTE Pathway by passing and substituting that CTE technical assessment for an academic Regents exam as part of the diploma requirements. Refer to the list of Department-Approved Pathway Assessments in Career and Technical Education to identify the substitutions allowed and technical assessments that can be used in the option. If the approved program assessment does not appear on the list, it may not be used to complete a CTE Pathway.

Workplace Readiness Assessments

In addition to specific program assessments that focus on technical skills, there are a number of CTE assessments that focus more broadly on work readiness. These assessments all vary in the specific knowledge or skills which they assess. Following are several examples and links for additional information. These assessments can be used to assess general workplace readiness. There also are the options for use by students seeking a CDOS credential and the CDOS Pathway 4+1 option.  Refer to the NYS Education Department for current options.

  • WorkKeys - The assessment group, ACT offers a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) based on its WorkKeys® assessment — a series of assessments that measure the real-world, "hard" and "soft" skills, helping to ensure individuals have the right skills for the right jobs
  • National Work Readiness Assessment  - National Work Readiness Council, is a consortium of businesses, unions, chambers of commerce, education and training professionals, and state workforce investment boards and offers are Work Readiness Credential based on their assessment. The assessment measures, Situational judgment, Oral Language, Reading with Understanding and Using math to solve problems.
  • CASA Work Related Assessments  - Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on assessment and curriculum development of basic skills for youth and adults. CASAS offers a Workforce Skills Certification System based on completion of several of their assessments related to career readiness. These assessments could be used to evaluate several readiness factors such as Employability Reading and Functional Writing.
  • SkillsUSA Work Force Ready Employability Assessment - The SkillsUSA includes a readiness assessment in the area of Employability.

Performance Assessment Rubrics

Students demonstrating technical skills is the best and most frequent way to assess student learning in CTE. Evaluating student demonstration of performance is best done with rubrics. A rubric is a type of scoring guide that assesses and articulates specific criteria and expectations for a performance task.  Rubrics can be used for a variety of tasks: live work, group projects, demonstrations, and presentations. Performance assessments are part of technical assessments and include rubrics are used to evaluate student proficiency. For other performance assessments, during instruction, teachers will need to locate or develop an assessment rubric.

Refer to Tips to Writing a Strong Rubric for some ideas on developing rubrics.

The publication Career Readiness Data Handbook: Measuring What Matters  includes a chapter on How to Grade Performance Assessments.

Following are several links for existing rubrics which can be adapted

Another source of rubrics are the student leadership organization competitions.

Authentic Assessment Practices

In addition to CTE program assessments, teachers may develop summative assessments for instructional units or end of courses, or not yet approved CTE programs. Local assessment practices are a key ingredient in providing high-quality instruction. Teachers often create their own or adapt other assessments to fit their particular instructional situation. The following five suggestions are practices essential to maintaining high-quality assessment which is authentic and directly tied to improving student competence within Career and Technical Education.

  • Align assessment to level of rigor and relevance of instruction -- CTE teachers are never satisfied with just teaching students the basics and are always striving to teach higher levels of proficiency. The reason for this is to enable students to tackle new complex problems in the workplace and develop new skills as the technology changes. One way of defining higher levels of student learning is through the use of the Rigor/Relevance Framework from the International Center for Leadership in Education. A teacher’s responsibility regarding assessment is to ensure that the assessments used to align with the high level of expectations of instruction regarding rigor and relevance. Avoid challenging students to do complex work but base their grade on assessments at a lower-level.
  • Assess skills, knowledge, and behavior -- CTE is all about technical skills and the prerequisite knowledge that is necessary to develop competency in those technical skills. A balanced assessment program ensures that assessments cover both skills and knowledge. But, behaviors are critically important to future job success. A mechanism should be in place to assess students in their Life/Career Abilities which define the behaviors essential to job performance.
  • Use effective rubrics aligned to measure performance learning -- Student performance is most often measured through rubrics. Teachers should strive to ensure that rubrics are of high quality and emphasize the most important criteria. Also, students should be fully aware of the criteria and be able to evaluate their work compared to the established criteria.
  • Provide feedback for learning with varied and frequent formative assessment -- Formative assessment is the aspect of student assessment while there is still time for further practice and improvement of skills. Formative assessment can take many different forms from informal conversations, to quizzes, or to intermediary scales on a rubric. Formative assessment does not always have to be graded, and often informal feedback is effective in improving student learning.
  • Use grading practices that lead to proficiency  -- Grading practices are the strategy that is used to communicate to the student and the school system the quantitative progress a student is making. The goal is to move students toward a level of proficiency within their career field. Some students may start at a very low level of proficiency make great progress while others may have a narrower path to the current level of proficiency. Consider the elements and how your grading system ensures that students are constantly working toward improving their mastery of skills and represents their current level of proficiency.