Message from the President: The Value of Data Part 1 (August 2021)

08.17.2021 | Credentialing, News, Newsletters

Summer 2021 Newsletter

In the spring, I mentioned the “Counting U.S. Postsecondary and Secondary Credentials” report produced by Credential Engine. We discussed the various credential categories and the standards that help dictate the quality of the process used to develop credentials. Typically, when an educational institution embarks on the implementation of a credential, it is for two reasons. First, it is a way for the learner to demonstrate that he or she has a verified skill set that has been documented by a respected third party. It is assumed that this credential will provide some labor market advantage to the learner as they apply for different positions within an industry. Second, employers use credentials as a criterion for hiring new employees. The credential signifies that an individual has demonstrated basic or advanced skills that other candidates may not possess. In CTE, the credentialing process benefits two groups: 1) employers 2) learners. What about the educational institution itself? Are we missing an important consideration for this group?

Also in our spring newsletter, I mentioned the value of the data a quality credential provides. As a long-time CTE educator, I’d like to elaborate on this value. Essentially, a quality credential is derived from quality standards that have been developed by vetted industry experts. These standards consist of both knowledge and skills that an individual should know and be able to do. These standards are further broken into competencies which define the specific detail involved in demonstrating the standards.

The standards themselves should form a basis for curriculum development. Educational institutions can use the data generated by learners participating in a credentialing process like NOCTI’s to reveal how well instructional goals are being met. The data can also be used longitudinally to investigate the overall program’s success in helping new learners understand all aspects of the targeted industry. If the institution uses a pre-test/post-test pattern, the data can be used prescriptively to develop individualized learner goals as well.

It might be helpful to provide a current example of how credentialing data can influence instructional planning. Recently, our analysts looked at the impact of a variety of instructional practices implemented during the last COVID-impacted school year. The overall data from the knowledge-based component of all nationally delivered NOCTI credentials seemed to increase over the previous pre-COVID school year! We found this to be stunning and a testament to the hard work and creativity of CTE educators across the nation. Interestingly, we also found that engagement numbers (students participating in the credentialing process) had dropped. We surmised that this engagement by a smaller population reflected the focus and interest of these specific schools, teachers, and learners.

Looking a bit deeper, we reviewed a specific standard within a credential, choosing our Culinary co-branded credential with ACF. We analyzed national data from the 2018-19 school year regarding the Sanitation and Safety standards which consist of nine specific competencies. When comparing the 2018-19 data to data from the 2020-21 school year, we found that results in all but two of these competencies went up an average of 2.5 percent each during 2020-21!

Like the overall national data on the 200+ different credentials that NOCTI delivers, the population did decrease. There are several variables that could have affected the increase in performance. While we won’t speculate on why technical competency increased for individual populations, we will underscore the value—the critical importance—of having data like this available.

Without objective third-party data obtained over a period of years from a variety of learner cohorts, there is no reliable information upon which to make instructional decisions. Further, in this instance, there is no specific way to gauge the impact of the COVID virus on CTE learning!

Our way of life has been altered for the foreseeable future in many ways. In CTE, unless we have longitudinal data, before, during, and after this pandemic we won’t have the tools to improve our instructional process.

In coming newsletters, we will dig a little deeper into the value of this data as we start the 2021-22 school year.

John Foster