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#AskExcelinEd: What Are the 3 phases of a CTE Program Audit?

• Quentin Suffren

The recent and long-awaited reauthorization of the federal Perkins Act provides states additional guidance and new flexibility for supporting career and technical education (CTE) programs. Many states are now looking for ways to take advantage of this flexibility and strengthen their statewide CTE programs.

Our Career and Technical Education (CTE) Playbook Series is designed to help states take steps to ensure their CTE programs prepare students for successful careers. I’m excited to share that we’ve recently released the third publication in the series, Auditing a State Career and Technical Education Program for Quality.


Before states expand or augment their current CTE programs, however, they must first evaluate what their programs currently deliver for students. Is their program aligned to the state’s workforce needs and higher-skill, higher-wage career opportunities? Does it provide a solid foundation for the long-term advancement and economic mobility of its citizenry? Do its pathways incorporate the most critical and up-to-date skills and experiences learners will need to adapt and thrive in jobs not yet even identified or in existence? In many states, the answers to these questions can be either incomplete or altogether elusive.

This new playbook guides state policymakers through a three-phase audit process to address such core questions and assess CTE program quality, alignment and overall effectiveness.


At a high level, an effective state CTE program audit encompasses three main phases:

Phase 1: Planning and Prep

Establishing the Audit Rationale, Priorities and Program Quality Indicators 
Before any data collection begins, policymakers must articulate the rationale for launching a state CTE program audit, the state’s priorities for its program audit and which indicators of program quality matter most.

Phase 2: Implementation

Identifying and Collecting Data for Program Quality Indicators 
In this phase, policymakers identify and benchmark the specific data (quantitative and qualitative) that will be used to measure and evaluate program quality.

Phase 3: Analysis and Next Steps

Translating Audit Results into Action 
This phase includes analysis of audit data and results, development of a comprehensive audit report with recommendations and creation of a strategic plan articulating the necessary steps for aligning the state’s CTE program with its established education, economic and workforce priorities.

Career and technical education is a critical but often overlooked way to improve outcomes and opportunities for students. And a CTE program audit can set the stage for a rich and robust examination of a state’s current CTE program to ensure states are doing their utmost to prepare their students for the workplace of tomorrow.

I encourage you to read this playbook and consider ways to use the specific, sequential steps identified to expand opportunities for students in your state.

About the author

Quentin Suffren

As Innovation Policy Managing Director, Quentin oversees Personalized Learning, College and Career Pathways and Course Access policies at ExcelinEd. Previously, Quentin served as executive director of the college, career, and military preparation at the Texas Education Agency. He also held leadership positions with Amplify Education, an education consulting and technology firm, TNTP, and The Learning Institute. Quentin began his career as a high school English teacher. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Memphis.