Test consortium offers work readiness tool

Test consortium offers work readiness tool

(Olympia, Wash.) School districts struggling to adequately prepare students who want to enter the workforce after graduation now have a new tool to guide them in that endeavor.

Developed over the last year by a task force of industry experts from member states of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the newly-adopted Career Readiness Frameworks provide sample templates for charting an academic path for students interested in a job in one of 16 career/industry segments.

By endorsing the frameworks, the Smarter Balanced website noted, “governing states affirmed their expectation that all students should achieve a level proficiency in English language arts and math that prepares them for success in a wide range of careers, including those that require postsecondary education or training.”

Designed to provide guidance and information to students, parents, teachers and counselors as students develop their career and academic goals, the career frameworks are likely to inform discussions taking place now in many states over measuring achievement that shows students are prepared to enter the workforce after graduation.

In many states transitioning to the new Common Core curriculum standards and aligned assessments, officials are restructuring academic performance measurement systems to include more than just test scores and other college-readiness indicators. But trying to document achievement toward workforce readiness has proved to be a challenge, mostly because there is no relevant data upon which to base universal benchmarks.

Identifying minimum workforce requirements and equating them to testing levels, such as the Career Frameworks do, may be a first step toward creating those benchmarks.

There are 16 model frameworks, one for each of the career clusters identified and developed by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. Many states use these clusters to organize curricula for career and technical education programs.

Within each career cluster, various occupations are identified along with the educational requirements needed to access that job, how those requirements translate to where the student needs to be in terms of Smarter Balanced assessment levels and what the expectations are for a student moving forward.

Given the many constraints of distinguishing between students who are and are not ready for productive careers, the frameworks authors wrote in an introduction, “the Career Readiness Frameworks seek to inform students, parents and educators about the variety of occupational fields that exist and about how the breadth of occupations potentially available increases as one’s level of academic preparation improves.”

Use of the frameworks is voluntary, and states are encouraged to customize them based on career and technical education curricula, state and local labor markets, the educational offerings of postsecondary institutions and other local needs.

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