Spring 2021 Newsletter
As schools, career centers, and community colleges consider what the 2021-22 school year will look like, it is important to remember what we have been through and what the future of education will look like. Clearly, education and our way of life has been altered for the foreseeable future. One thing that has not changed is the importance of credentialing. In fact, it is likely that the value of credentials has been enhanced. To someone involved in regular educational circles, a credential could be seen as the ultimate summative assessment; however to a career and technical educator, it is much more.
Let’s start by reviewing some basics. According to the “Counting U.S. Postsecondary and Secondary Credentials” February 2021 report, produced by Credential Engine, there were just under one million credentials available in the United States. Since the report’s release, that number has now exceeded one million. Credential Engine broadly defines a credential as a qualification of achievement, representing either personal or organizational quality, which is typically used to indicate suitability for some purpose. Generally, credentials fall into one of six categories: 1) Apprenticeships, 2) Degrees and Diplomas, 3) Digital Badges, 4) Certificates, 5) Certifications, and 6) Licenses.
In Career and Technical Education (CTE), we tend to focus on categories that address technical skills, like certifications, licenses, apprenticeships, and digital badges. A variety of criteria can be used to evaluate the quality of credentials. Evaluation criteria includes the quality of the organization offering the credential, the credential development process, and the value of the credential to a particular population or group.
When it comes to organizational quality, one of the easiest benchmarks is adherence to recognized personnel accreditation standards. In credentialing, the gold standard is ISO 17024. The ISO 17024 standards address many facets of an organization including general requirements, structural requirements, resource requirements, records and information requirements, certification scheme, process requirements, and the management system. If an organization adheres to these standards and a third-party attests to that adherence, the organization is recognized as a quality organization. NOCTI recently completed its re-accreditation process and ISO 17024 accreditation has been extended through 2026.
In the credential development process, the ISO standards also apply. However, another easy way to assure that your provider adheres to the standards is to determine if it follows “The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing” published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME). One requirement of these standards is to ensure that a technical manual is available for each credential. NOCTI’s technical manuals include important information about the development of a certification assessment such as identification of subject matter experts (SMEs) involved in development, SME qualifications, descriptions of the population included in the pilot testing phase, the resulting statistics from pilot testing, and many other factors that attest to the quality of the assessment. If an organization cannot provide this information, it should certainly raise some red flags.
The last category to consider when evaluating credentials is the perceived value of the credential. Because NOCTI is part of the CTE community, its certifications rely on the expertise of existing structures which includes Occupational Advisory Committees (OAC). OACs participate in the competency evaluation of student completers by evaluating actual hands-on skill performance. Because of the deep investment of OACs and their long-term investment in improving the quality of the local workforce, OACs are perfect partners to evaluate the quality of those who have earned a NOCTI credential. NOCTI certifications are often requested of potential employees and are highly valued.
In upcoming newsletters, we will discuss the components of a certification as well as the value of the data the credentials generate.