Magazine article Techniques

Developing Technical Skill Assessments: There Has Been Vigorous Debate regarding the Merits of Various Assessment Approaches and Alternatives to National or Industry Exams. the Entire Field Is Working Hard to Increase the Focus on Technical Skill Measurement in Order to Provide Clear Evidence That CTE Provides a Unique Value to Students

Magazine article Techniques

Developing Technical Skill Assessments: There Has Been Vigorous Debate regarding the Merits of Various Assessment Approaches and Alternatives to National or Industry Exams. the Entire Field Is Working Hard to Increase the Focus on Technical Skill Measurement in Order to Provide Clear Evidence That CTE Provides a Unique Value to Students

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ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING THE CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE) COMMUNITY AS IT WORKS TO IMPLEMENT THE 2006 PERKINS ACT is responding to more rigorous requirements for reporting on CTE students' technical skill attainment. The law requires that measures be valid and reliable, and the technical skill attainment measure is enhanced to focus on "career and technical skill proficiencies, including student achievement on technical assessments, that are aligned with industry-recognized standards, if available and appropriate."

The U.S. Department of Education suggested in non-regulatory guidance that states and locals use the number of CTE concentrators who passed technical skill assessments aligned with industry-recognized standards as their performance indicator to fulfill the new requirements. While there has been vigorous debate regarding the merits of various assessment approaches and alternatives to national or industry exams, 44 states have decided to use the non-regulatory guidance at the secondary level, and 33 states have made that decision at the postsecondary level. Even though some states have chosen a slightly different approach, the entire field is working hard to increase the focus on technical skill measurement in order to provide clear evidence that CTE provides a unique value to students.

Unfortunately, very few states have such a system of technical assessments in place. While efforts are under way at the national level to provide some assistance, many states are moving forward with efforts to increase their ability to accurately measure the skills students gain in CTE programs. Some states are working to develop a set of assessments based on their own state standards, some are looking to align with already existing national or industry assessments, and others are taking a combination approach. Georgia already had an assessment system in place at the postsecondary level, but there was no established, statewide technical skill measurement system in place for high school students. When the new Perkins law was passed, the state embraced the challenge to build an assessment system from scratch and began working furiously.

Mamie Hanson, grants program consultant with the Georgia Department of Education's Division of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE), said state administrators "did a lot of research to see which approach would yield the best results for students" and considered a variety of assessment options. The question they ultimately decided to measure was, "Does a student have the necessary skills to enter the career pathway or occupational area and be successful?" It was determined that a more sustainable level of technical skill attainment could be measured after a student had completed a sequence of courses, which led the state toward an end-of-pathway assessment system aligned with its new "Peach State Pathways."

During the 2007-2008 school year, Georgia began identifying a system of valid and reliable third-party assessments that evaluate industry-based standards. Beginning with eight career pathways, Subject Matter Expert (SME) Panels were established to engage in a process of identifying or developing appropriate technical assessments. Expert panels included four to six representatives from secondary and postsecondary education, business and industry and CTE administration. Team members accomplished these tasks over four work sessions. …

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