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#AskExcelinEd: What does Perkins V mean for CTE accountability?

• Melissa Canney

ExcelinEd’s new brief Perkins V Reauthorization: Opportunities, Challenges and Risks for States identifies eight shifts Perkins V makes that present critical decision points for states pursuing high-quality CTE programs. In today’s post, ExcelinEd’s Melissa Canney examines the reauthorization’s impact on accountability goals for state CTE programs.

States determine their own accountability goals and performance targets

The Perkins V accountability system evaluates the extent to which a state’s CTE concentrators meet state-determined levels of performance across several secondary and postsecondary indicators of performance. These indicators include the following:

Secondary Indicators
  • Graduation
  • Proficiency in academic standards
  • Postsecondary education, training, military or employment rate six months after graduation
  • Program quality indicators (state-selected)
  • Enrollment in programs leading to nontraditional fields
Postsecondary Indicators
  • Postsecondary education, advanced training, military, employment six months after completion
  • Completion of postsecondary credential within one year
  • Enrollment in programs leading to nontraditional fields

Under Perkins IV, states negotiated their performance levels with the U.S. Department of Education. Like ESSA, Perkins V empowers states to set their own state-determined levels of performance for each of the four years covered by the initial state plan, based on specific criteria.

The level of each core indicator of performance must be the same for all concentrators in the state. The target level should also require the state to make meaningful progress toward improving the performance of all CTE students, including subgroups. These performance levels must be included in the state plan public comment process and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education based on the criteria set forth in the law. States will continue to lead negotiations with local recipients related to local performance levels (where applicable), which must equal the state total when aggregated.

New Opportunities

State-determined levels of performance allow states to set long-term and annual goals through the Perkins V accountability framework that align with their strategic vision for CTE. Additionally, the legislation encourages states to align their Perkins V performance goals with other statewide goals (e.g., ESSA, WIOA or other state-specific initiatives). States that triangulate with existing goals can leverage related initiatives and resources to help stakeholders support shared goals.

States also have the opportunity to invest in the development of or upgrades to data collection systems to integrate Perkins reporting requirements with other important CTE indicators, along with other state and federal measures. States that approach this thoughtfully could gain information about the effectiveness of career pathways and student outcomes. This could also help states streamline the reporting process and more seamlessly evaluate their states’ interconnected needs and goals.

New Challenges and Risks

While this change allows states to determine their own performance levels, it also presents some challenges. Setting ambitious and achievable goals for state accountability systems is difficult. States that set goals that are not ambitious risk setting lower expectations for what their students can achieve, while states that set goals that are not achievable risk stakeholder discouragement and loss of trust.

States may not currently collect sufficient data to set appropriate goals and report on all the required indicators. This is especially true at the secondary level. The new CTE concentrator definition, combined with new quality program indicator options, may require some states to set initial goals without baseline data. States may face challenges in setting goals that are both ambitious and achievable while they update their data systems to collect new data.

Program Impact and Accountability Recommendations for States to Consider

  • Collect and publicly report information about students who complete in-depth CTE experiences (3-4 credits within a CTE program or program of study). Implement policies and programs that encourage the completion of advanced CTE coursework.
  • Integrate state data systems to more easily connect and analyze student benchmarks and outcomes related to college and career readiness. Ensure this data infrastructure captures and publicly reports on multiple measures of CTE program quality, not just the measure(s) chosen for Perkins reporting purposes.
  • Establish rigorous criteria to ensure that the student experiences related to each of the indicators of secondary CTE program quality are rigorous and aligned with the student’s preparation for his or her field of interest.
  • Align state-determined levels of performance for secondary Perkins program quality indicators with other existing state goals (e.g., ESSA, HEA, WIOA and/or state-specific workforce development goals). Ensure all Perkins state-determined levels of performance are both ambitious and achievable.

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About the author

Melissa Canney

Melissa Canney is the Director of Innovation Policy at ExcelinEd. She previously served as the Executive Director of Divisional Operations and Communications in the Division of College, Career and Technical Education at the Tennessee Department of Education. Melissa’s experience in Tennessee included policy analysis and implementation, communication strategy development, grant management and data analysis related to college and career readiness. A Vermont native, Melissa earned a B.A in Sociology from Stanford University and an M.P.P. in Education from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her dog Moxie.