Connecting Data to CTE Program Improvement

12.14.2020 | Why NOCTI

Data plays an integral role in career and technical education (CTE) programs and in how we equip future workforces with industry-relevant skills and knowledge. While credentialing or certification typically happens at the end of instruction, this evaluation of competence not only serves to validate a learner’s skills but also provides the data needed for program evaluation and improvement.

All CTE professionals—from teachers to administrators and state directors—must recognize and understand the role data-driven decision making plays in program improvement and in equipping future workforces with the skills they need for success.

Preparing Future Workforces for Success

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, or Perkins V, includes an emphasis on data-driven decision making, as well as the collection, application, and transparency of data. Since 2018, educators, stakeholders, and state policymakers have been hard at work to incorporate Perkins V requirements into CTE programs. Among other changes, Perkins V has empowered states to develop systems of accountability and data reporting specific to their circumstances and local contexts. However, to drive consistent and targeted program improvement, CTE professionals should understand the importance of data beyond simply complying with Perkins V.

Because CTE programs equip learners with industry-specific skills and experience, the quality and accuracy of instruction has a direct impact on the learner’s workplace readiness. For example, students in a CNC machining class should receive instruction in basic machining principles as well as using up-to-date CAD/CAM software. Without hands-on experience and up-to-date knowledge, a CTE program graduate is less likely to be hired by a potential employer or may have to be retrained at the employer’s expense.

Increasing every learner’s chances of success is the result of continuous program improvement, which in turn is driven by using relevant data to make decisions. The deeper the data, the more useful it is for instructional improvement. The better a CTE program is, the more likely it is students will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to be successful in their chosen occupation. And whether entering the workforce or continuing to postsecondary education, successful CTE learners have a positive impact on their communities and on our nation’s economy.

A Data Disconnect

While data is key to program improvement, many CTE professionals are challenged in making a connection between data and decision-making. A 2019 report from Advance CTE found that 86% of state CTE directors believe “improving and enhancing CTE data systems is a priority,” but only 45% say they have the “information to assist in making decisions about CTE program quality and other initiatives at both the secondary and postsecondary levels.” The most common use of “career readiness data” is to “inform technical assistance to local programs and institutions or inform program improvement efforts.” However, one of the report’s key findings was that “states are hesitant to use data to assist in high-level decision making.”

“While 71 percent of State Directors report using two or more measures of career readiness to inform technical assistance and program improvement at the secondary level, only 43 percent report using at least two measures to transform or phase out CTE programs. At the postsecondary level, 57 percent of states report using two or more measures of career readiness to inform technical assistance and program improvement, whereas only 35 percent report the same for transforming or phasing out programs. This finding indicates that states either are not maximizing their data to hold local institutions accountable for learner success or do not trust the quality of their data enough to make high-stakes decisions.” The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality & Effectiveness (2019)

This disconnect between data and decision making not only hinders program improvement but could also be detrimental to the success of future workforces.

Putting Your Program Data to Work

With over 50 years of experience, NOCTI has developed tools and resources to help CTE professionals make the connection between data and program improvement. Whether at the program or state level, we can help you collect comprehensive data and then use this technical data for instructional improvement.

Reporting & Data

NOCTI understands the deep connection between data and program success and our credentials meet the requirements of postsecondary credentials under Perkins V. NOCTI credentials and reporting packages are designed to provide educators and stakeholders with the data needed for continuous program and instructional improvement and for meeting regulatory requirements. Stakeholder access to detailed data and reports is critical when making decisions to support learning and program improvement.

  • Reporting includes individual, group, and comparative scores.
  • Sub-scores help identify gains/losses for individual learners and programs as a whole.
  • Pre-testing gives a more complete before-and-after picture of progress and helps learners and instructors pinpoint areas needing improvement.
  • Reporting analyzes an entire group’s performance and compares it to state or national averages.
  • With a competency report, we can pull data from a variety of filters, resulting in a data extract customized to your needs.
  • If additional reports are needed, we work with clients to design custom reporting tools and formats.

Certification Program Management

NOCTI’s trademark delivery, program management system, and industry credentials can serve as the foundation of an accountability system. Whether at the program or state level, we have the experience and expertise to develop the solid foundation of an assessment, offer recognition, and create resources to ensure a successful certification program. We also work closely with several states to develop custom programs and resources including state-specific assessments, custom systems programming, and certificate and digital badge issuing.

Explore NOCTI’s Resources

We provide a variety of free resources to help CTE professionals make the most of their data. On-demand webinars highlight success stories and take a deeper look at how data can be used for program improvement. Published in partnership with ACTE, our book Putting Your Data to Work: Improving Instruction in CTE explores the various aspects of data-driven improvement in instruction.

No matter the challenge you are facing, we are here to help your programs and your students find success. We encourage you to explore our site and take advantage of our various resources. Our team is always available to discuss which products or services would be a good fit for your CTE program and help connect the dots between data and instructional improvement.