“With so much attention being paid to what it means for students to be college- and career-ready, it is important for policymakers and the public to understand how states and school districts are defining and assessing career and technical readiness,” said Maria Ferguson, CEP executive director. “The sheer number of assessments being used by both states and districts indicate that career readiness can mean many different things even within one state or district.”

The report is based on a summer 2013 survey of state directors of career and technical education in 46 states, including the District of Columbia, and is the first broad overview of state policies for defining career readiness and assessing these skills since the 2010 adoption of the Common Core.

Barely a definition; types of assessments

According to the report, while 45 states report that they or their districts assess students for career readiness, only 14 states have established a definition of what it means for a high school student to be career- or work-ready. Another 20 states are in the process of developing such a definition.

Also, states and their school districts are using various assessments to gauge career readiness. Among the most common tests are ACT’s WorkKeys, used in 32 states to assess employability skills or applied academics related to career readiness, and various types of industry-based certification or licensing exams, used in 38 states to assess students’ technical skills.

Other assessments include the ASVAB  developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and typically available to any student, especially those interested in a military career, and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) assessments.

Several states also reported using other ways of measuring technical skills, including student projects, portfolios, or competitions, notes the report. For example, in Missouri, students’ technical skills are evaluated at Career and Technical Student Organization competitions at the local, state, and national levels. In Utah, teachers assess performance indicators in each course as part of the Utah Skill Certification Exam program.

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