High quality CTE is defined by student learning standards similar to other subject areas. In addition, there are measures of the process and practices in CTE that define high quality instructional programs.
CTE Learning Standards
In New York State, secondary CTE is defined by the learning standards for Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS). The Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Resource Guide with Core Curriculum is a companion document to the CDOS learning standards. It further develops the core content for each learning standard and career major. The document is also rich in teacher developed classroom activities that help students achieve the CDOS standards.
The Common Career Technical Core (CCTC) is an important step forward for the CTE community. For the first time in the history of CTE, states throughout the nation have a common benchmark for what students should know and be able to do after completing a program of study. Developed by the National Association of State Directors of CTE Consortium / National Vocational Technical Education Foundation, Silver Spring, MD. The CCTC is a state-led initiative, with 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Palau participating in the development stage. Business and industry representatives, educators, and others helped guide the development of the CCTC from beginning to ensure CTE students will have the knowledge and skills to thrive in a global economy. The result is a set of rigorous, high-quality standards for CTE that states can adopt voluntarily. The CCTC includes standards for each of the 16 Career Clusters and their corresponding Career Pathways which define what students should know and be able to do after completing instruction in a program of study. The CCTC and programs of study are great starting resources for defining student technical skills. Refinement of technical skills should be done by the industry consultant committee and appropriate industry certification and technical assessment. The Career Ready Practices component of the CCTC is a list of 12 common standards that provide a framework for the developmental experiences necessary to becoming career ready in all areas.
Integration of Academic Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS)
One goal of the CTE TAC is to assist schools in the integration of the NYS Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) within CTE. The CCLS for English Language Arts and the CCLS for Mathematics are the target of integration efforts.
Work Readiness Standards
In addition to specific program technical assessments which usually focus on technical skills, there are a number of CTE assessments that focus more broadly on work readiness. These assessments vary in the specific behaviors or skills that they assess.
Following are several examples with links for additional information:
- WorkKeys® - The assessment group ACT offers a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) based on its WorkKeys®— a series of assessments that measure real-world "hard" and "soft" skills, helping to ensure individuals have the right skills for the right jobs.
- National Work Readiness Assessment - The National Work Readiness Council, a consortia of businesses, unions, chambers of commerce, education and training professionals, and state workforce investment boards, offers a Work Readiness credential based on this assessment. The assessment measures situational judgment, oral language, reading with understanding, and using math to solve problems.
- CASAS 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 such readiness factors as employability, reading, and functional writing.
- SkillsUSA Work Force Ready Employability Assessment - The SkillsUSA includes a readiness assessment in the area of Employability.
Another area of standards appropriate for CTE to consider is life/career abilities. The term encompasses work habits and personal skills, which are critical for success in the workplace. Industry groups often refer to these as "soft skills.” The Successful Practices Network has three white papers in the resources section of the website. The paper, "Life/Career Abilities Framework: Begin With the End in Mind" will be helpful in defining standards in this area.
In New York State, program standards exist in the form of the CTE Approved Program process. Program approval is required every five years to ensure that instruction stays consistent with industry expectations. The process involves a self-study and external review. Here is a link to the NYS Implementation Guide for CTE Program Approval..
The process involves a focus on the following elements:
- Curriculum Review
- Teacher Certification
- Technical Assessments Based on Industry Standards
- Postsecondary Articulation
- Work-based Learning
- Employability Profile
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the professional association for CTE, has initiated a project to define high quality CTE. The Quality CTE Program of Study Framework was drafted in the fall 2015, and updated in 2018, by examining standards from various states to create a comprehensive set of standards that schools, districts, and states could use in improvement efforts.
This framework includes standards in the following categories:
- Standards-aligned and Integrated Curriculum
- Sequencing and Articulation
- Student Assessment
- Prepared and Effective Program Staff
- Engaging Instructional Strategies
- Access and Equity
- Facilities and Equipment
- Business and Community Partnerships
- Career Development
- Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs)
- Work-based Learning
- Data and Outcomes