Magazine article Techniques

The PSI Score Card: Determining When to Close a CTE Program

Magazine article Techniques

The PSI Score Card: Determining When to Close a CTE Program

Article excerpt


HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT IS TIME TO EITHER GIVE A PROGRAM EXTRA ATTENTION OR PERHAPS CLOSE IT? That problem faces many career and technical education (CTE) programs and there is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution. Traditional assessments are inefficient in helping programs learn how to leverage their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. In St. Louis County, Missouri, a team of CTE advisers and administrators arrived at a model for reviewing programs facing this challenge.

The St. Louis County Special School District (SSD) is an overlay district that provides both special education and CTE to its 23 school districts. CTE services are provided through SSD's two technical high schools: North Technical High (1,200 students) and South Technical High (850 students). The district offers 34 career and technical programs with 25 being duplicated at both schools.

SSD's superintendent, John Caw, and his CTE advisory board wanted to use data to evaluate the district's CTE programs. A subcommittee was formed to look into program initiation, evaluation and termination. The superintendent and the board members were looking for a formal program that consisted of a written policy, and subsequent procedures, to evaluate all of the technical education programs.

Doing the Groundwork

First, the subcommittee investigated whether other career centers and/or career districts had a formal system of evaluation for career and technical programs. After contacting Missouri career centers and finding no formal written processes, calls went out to other states' CTE centers. Sandra Royer, the health and consumer sciences supervisor at Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Clayton, Ohio, provided a draft called Disinvestment Guidelines. The guidelines called for programs that fell below a certain level of enrollment to be placed on a watch list. Programs that continue to fall on the list, after analysis and interventions, could be placed on probation. Though there were no formal guidelines, Royer indicated that it was a good place to start a conversation to evaluate their programs.

"The primary purpose of any systematic assessment of school performance ... is to reveal best practices and identify shared problems in order to encourage teachers and schools to develop more supportive and productive learning environments," suggest Schleicher and Stewart (2008, p. 49). Accordingly, the subcommittee liked the idea of a tiered system in evaluating the programs. A program would be placed on a watch list and if things didn't improve the second year, it would be placed on probation. In future years, the program could be terminated if progress is not attained. A duplicated program, such as carpentry, would be evaluated using separate data for each school.

Using the PSI Scorecard

The next step was to find valid and measurable criteria to evaluate the programs. Koretz (2008, p. 19) posits, "A sensible accountability system ... holds people accountable for what they can control." To this end, the subcommittee members started by listing all of the factors they, as stakeholders, thought should be assessed in order to operate a successful CTE program. After much discussion, the subcommittee combined many of the factors and came to consensus on measurable criteria which relate to federal and state accountability standards.

The criteria used to evaluate the programs are called Program Status Indicators (PSI). The subcommittee settled on five major PSI which provide sufficient objective data to analyze a program's success. They are: placement, enrollment, advisory committees, certification, and occupational outlook. What follows are the definitions of the PSI as well as cutoff scores identified for each indicator.

Placement: A combination of job and postsecondary placement is reviewed. Positive Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) placements include students:

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