Magazine article Techniques

Keeping Things in Check

Magazine article Techniques

Keeping Things in Check

Article excerpt

Assessment of career and technical programs provides unique challenges and results in creative approaches at the state level.

Career and technical education is one of the most evolving sectors of the American education system today. As we move into this new millennium, the United States is facing a labor shortage, soon to be a severe labor shortage if few measures are taken, which places an even greater emphasis on the practical, career-oriented education our children are receiving from elementary school on through postsecondary schools. The days of reading, writing, and 'rithmetic are about as outdated as typewriters, which is why new emphasis, on both the federal and state level, is being placed on the career and technical programs currently being offered.

With the passage of the new Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Amendments of 1998 (Perkins), vocational education is being placed under an even stronger microscope to bring uniformity to assessment and accountability procedures and to better report to Congress just exactly where and how Perkins funding is being used. While this has placed more pressure on state and federal agencies, it has proven, in many cases, to be a big boon to career and technical education.

According to Kim Green, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Technical Education Consortium, only about five to seven percent of the national education budget comes from the federal government with only about $1 billion earmarked for vocational education. The rest of the funding for vocational education, about $12 billion, comes from the states. Since the overwhelming majority of the funding is generated by the states, the result has been a lack of national data on vocational education. In fact, every state even has a different definition of who a vocational education student is.

The 1998 Perkins legislation is the first piece of legislation to have accountability language in it. This new legislation aims to bring all of the states together using a uniform accountability and assessment system, in the hopes of making each and every state compatible with each other and the federal government. This will no doubt prove invaluable, as states will be able to share data and strategies since they will all be on the same playing field.

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education, to assist states in making a transition to the new Perkins, collaborated with states, the Department of Labor and stakeholder organizations to create an accountability framework. The framework "identifies the purposes and construction of each core measure, arrays possible measurement approaches for collecting data, and presents quality criteria and scoring rubrics to assist states in improving the quality of their proposed accountability systems." Simply put, this framework helps states comply with the new legislation in the ultimate goal of achieving across-the-board consistent data for vocational education in the United States.

While all of this is being worked on at the federal level, many states are taking their own, often creative, approaches to improving career and technical education within their state borders while still focusing on the mandates of Perkins. They are creating their own internal accountability measures and taking a hard look at themselves in an attempt to raise their state's vocational education programs to a new level. Call it a sort of friendly competition among the states, but the result has been a heightened awareness of vocational education and even more validity to this type of teaching.

The state of Virginia has created what they call the Linkage System by which core academic teachers have crosswalked the content standards they are teaching with those being taught by career and technical education instructors, and vice versa. The state of Virginia has created the Linkage System in partnership with V-TECs and SkillsNet to "provide a significant base of materials for contextual instruction. …

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