Career/Technical Education: Quality Control Mechanisms

Career/Technical Education: Quality Control Mechanisms

Various means can help ensure the quality of career and technical education programs:

Program Approval/Review Process: Indicates that a system is in place for approving new programs and reviewing the quality of existing career and technical education programs for quality.
Certificate of Mastery: Indicates that a state makes available a credential that shows a student has been tested and meets the state's requirements or the requirements of a nationally recognized occupational competency institute.
Emphasis on Rigor: Indicates that a state is working to transition the career and technical education program from a narrow vocational education definition to a robust program that meets the needs of students, the state, and future employers, and that the state has measures in place to ensure the rigor of program offerings. Many states have adopted model curriculum standards and frameworks approved by business/industry standards.
Funding to Purchase/Adopt Rigorous Programs: The majority of state career and technical education programs are primarily funded by federal funds authorized through the Perkins Act. Far fewer states appropriate state funds to support more rigorous programs. Twenty states report a program approval/review process is in place. Ten states appear to use certificates of mastery. Twenty-two states indicate attention to rigor. Six states indicate that state funds are earmarked for career and technical education programs.

Why does it matter?

  • Such mechanisms are essential for making a cultural shift from what was once vocational technical education to the broadened career and technical education.
  • For career and technical programs to serve as a viable high school reform strategy, the state should establish a means of weeding out weaker programs and promoting rigorous programs.
  • Methodology: This information was collected from state statutes, rules and regulations, and will be updated as new policies are enacted.

    Last updated: June 2008

    Research conducted by Melodye Bush. Please contact Jennifer Dounay Zinth for questions, additions or corrections: 303.299.3689 or

Quality control mechanism(s) (program approval/review process, certificate of mastery, system emphasis on rigor, funding for districts to purchase/adopt rigorous progams of study, etc.)
Alabama Program Approval/Review Process: All programs are to meet business/industry standards approved by the department of education. Programs are reviewed by a business/industry team according to their initial approval date. Any program certified by a nationally recognized industry certification process must remain in compliance with the national standards.
Emphasis on Rigor: All programs are required to meet business/industry standards approved by the department of education.
Alaska Program Approval/Review Process: State has established career and technical education performance standards and competencies by which programs are reviewed for approval.
Certificate of Mastery: Both the state's technical high school system and the comprehensive high school utilize the statewide career and technical education assessment program with assessment instruments developed by the National Occupational Competency Institute.
Arizona Program Approval/Review Process: In practice, the governing board of a school district provides annually for a self-evaluation of its career and technical education and vocational education programs. The assessment is to be conducted in cooperation with and with assistance from business, industry or labor representatives. The state board of education determines the manner in which the evaluation is conducted.

In 2003-2005, Arizona conducted a comprehensive adaptation and update of its 36 career and technical education programs. Through the process, all programs were reviewed, specific program standards were written and programs were updated to include specific reinforcement of state academic standards. 
Arkansas Program Approval/Review Process: Staff conduct audits of 20% of the schools annually
California Program Approval/Review: California State University and the University of California established a model uniform set of academic standards for high school career technical courses which high schools are required be in compliance with. Career and technical indicators must be included on annual school report cards.
Certificate of Mastery: None at the state level. However, each of the 74 regional occupation centers and programs in California give a certificate.
Emphasis on Rigor: Participating career and technical education programs must adopt the Model Curriculum Career and Technical Education Standards and Framework.
Funding to Purchase/Adopt Rigorous Programs: So-called "S.B. 70" funds (named after the 2006 legislation that created a career and technical education improvement grant program) allow students to participate in business intern partnerships.
Connecticut Emphasis on Rigor: Industry advisory committees—which include industry representatives of the specific cluster, with support from the Office of Workforce Competitiveness, regional vocational-technical and regional community-technical college system and the Department of Education—establish specific skills standards, corresponding curriculum and a career ladder for the cluster, which is to be implemented as part of the schools' core curriculum.
Delaware Program Approval/Review Process:  All local school districts and charter schools that offer state approved career technical education programs must:
  • Have the approval of the department of education before implementing new programs
  • Have adequate funding to support and sustain the instructional program
  • Employ teachers certified in career technical education program areas
  • Make provisions for meeting the unique needs of all students
  • Establish and maintain an active advisory committee, which includes labor and management personnel, to assist in the development and operation of the program
  • Use present and projected labor market information, available from the state's Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, to determine the need for new and continuing career technical education programs
  • Survey local business and industry to determine their occupational needs and the availability of placement and employment opportunities for program completers
  • Organize and financially support career technical student organizations that complement and enrich instruction as integral components of career technical education programs in public schools 
  • Integrate related academic content into individual career technical education courses and guide students through a course selection process that supports the necessary academic preparation required by the student's career path and educational goals
  • Schedule trade and industrial education programs, when offered, for a minimum of two consecutive periods a day or the equivalent, five days a week for two or more years
  • Establish no rules, practices or regulations that interfere with, prohibit or otherwise prevent students from having the opportunity to learn about, enroll in and complete a career technical education program
  • Use equipment and facilties comparable to that used by local business and industry for which the career technical education program is preparing students and
  • Schedule department of education and Delaware Advisory Council on Career and Technical Education Program review and monitoring visits upon request.

Certificate of Mastery: The Delaware Department of Education is mandating the implementation of career pathway assessments for all career and technical education programs. Industry-specific assessment tools include state licensing tests, national certification tests, postsecondary program advanced placement tests, and tests from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute.

Emphasis on Rigor: Local education agencies must demonstrate how their career and technical education courses are an essential component of a three-credit career and technical education career pathway of pre-planned and sequential courses required for graduation.

Career and technical education programs have active advisory committees with membership reflective of the program and related business and industry within the region that will review and make recommendations to develop, improve and expand access to appropriate technology in career and technical education programs.

District of Columbia Emphasis on Rigor: Among the duties of the District Education and Learning Technologies Advancement Council are workforce preparation initiatives. In general, the council is to work with the public schools, public charter schools, appropriate governmental agencies, businesses and other private entities to facilitate the integration of rigorous academic studies with workforce preparation programs in the DC public and public charter schools.
Florida Program Approval/Review Process: The career and professional academies are to be coordinated with the appropriate industry indicating that all components of the program are relevant and appropriate to prepare the student for further education or for employment in that industry.
Certificate of Mastery: With completion of the requirements for high school graduation and the additional requirements for a comprehensive career education program of study, mastery is recognized with a career education certificate on his or her high school diploma.
Emphasis on Rigor: The state board of education established a policy for continual review of courses to ensure sufficient rigor and relevance for workforce skills, postsecondary education, and alignment to state curriculum standards.
Idaho Program Approval/Review Process: A program review process is in place. Program managers visit all new teachers the first year and programs are reviewed on a 3- to 5-year basis.
Emphasis on Rigor: As a component of the state's Quality Initiative, the program review process helps evaluate the rigor of the curriculum. Individuals from industry are included in the design of the curriculum/program and each secondary program is required to have an advisory committee made up of business and industry members.
Funding to Purchase/Adopt Rigorous Programs: The division of professional-technical education provides funds for special projects and, in some cases these would be pilot projects. The projects could include business intern partnerships. Currently funded is a school-to-work apprenticeship model at the secondary level.
Indiana Program Approval/Review Process: An on-site review process is in place.
Certificate of Mastery: No state policy, although some local programs offer local certificates indicating standards/proficiencies mastered.
Emphasis on Rigor: No state policy; however, career and technical education teachers in most districts have completed training in the rigor/relevance rubric. Career and technical education districts are required to have advisory committees and they generally serve as the arbiters of the rigor of career and technical education programs.
Kansas Program Approval/Review Process: State has an approval process for new career and technical programs which is currently being updated and automated. There is a quality assurance process in place to monitor program continuation. The state is also working on an integrated compliance and monitoring process.  
Funding to Purchase/Adopt Rigorous Programs: State is using Perkins Reserve Fund monies to emphasize business and industry partnerships and teacher externships.
Kentucky Certificate of Mastery: Kentucky Employability Certificate is a reliable and consistent indicator of basic employment skills. Certificate was created by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
Emphasis on Rigor: The department of education and the office of career and technical education, is charged with annual review of the rigor and intensity of the technical programs and expectations for student performance in reading, math, science, and writing and other academic skills as well as in technical skill development. 
Louisiana Emphasis on Rigor: Louisiana Administrative Code was modified in 2007 to align the career and technical education course offerings more closely with national standards. Louisiana's High School Career Option requires each high school to offer at least one career major program.  A career major program is to provide a student with greater technical skill and a strong academic core.
Maryland Program Approval/Review Process: Career and technical education programs must align with the "Policies and Procedures for the Development and Continuous Improvement of CTE Programs" in order to receive state approval.
Emphasis on Rigor: Every Maryland career and technical education program of study includes the sequence of academic and technical courses that prepares students for both college and careers. Over 50 percent of Maryland's career and technical education completers also meet the requirements for admission to the University System of Maryland.
Funding to Purchase/Adopt Rigorous Programs: Local school systems and community colleges receive Perkins funds to expand and improve career and technical education programs of study. At the state level, Perkins grants provide incentive funds to enable local recipients to align career and technical education programs to Maryland's workforce and economic development needs. Over 350 employers serve on state cluster advisory boards to ensure currency of the program.
Massachusetts Certificate of Mastery:  State is developing Certificates of Occupational Proficiency that signify mastery of a core set of academic skills, technical competencies and knowledge. The certificates are to begin with the graduating class of 2010. To qualify for the certificate, students will be required to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and further education by passing both written and performance exams. Students also will be required to complete a portfolio to demonstrate what they have learned and develop a career plan and resume.
Emphasis on Rigor:  Rigorous standards, measurable against students in other states and in other countries have been established.  Included are the standards for three determinations of certificates--competency determination (exit exam), certificate of mastery, and certificate of occupational proficiency. The state board of education was charged with establishing the student academic standards.

Minnesota Program Approval/Review Process: Local programs must be state approved every five years or whenever substantial changes are made, using a 25-element rubric. Programs must be aligned with opportunities at the postsecondary level that culminate in attainment of a degree, certificate or diploma.
Emphasis on Rigor: The state's 25-element program approval rubric encompasses continuous program assessment, continuous program improvement process, curriculum content, instructional delivery, student assessment and curriculum/instructional resource review.

Missouri Program Approval/Review Process: Career education programs must align to the state requirements specified in the Missouri School Improvement Program.
New Hampshire Program Approval/Review Process: State has a regional career and technical education structure. They have four regional consortia. Programs are monitored to ensure that the competencies are being taught and assessed. 
Emphasis on Rigor: All of the state career and technical education competencies are being reviewed by business and industry representatives and include the 21st century skills as well as all aspects of the specific industry. The competencies are cross-walked with the state's Grade Span Expectations for secondary schools.
New Jersey
New Mexico Certificate of Mastery: Career Readiness Certification uses ACT's WorkKeys to assess work readiness skills and award the "Certified for Success" career readiness certificates.
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota Program Approval/Review Process: State has developed standards of quality and a program approval process.
Oklahoma Program Approval/Review Process: All career and technical education programs offered at comprehensive school districts and technology center districts must go through the program approval process. The state is currently transitioning from "program" approval to "career major" approval. Comprehensive school districts programs receive on-site reviews.  If a career and technical education course is to be approved for academic credit, the state board of education or state regents for higher education must approve the program.
Emphasis on Rigor:   State has started looking at some alignment with 4 year degree programs, especially in the STEM area.
Oregon Program Approval/Review Process: Oregon required secondary career and technical education programs to be approved following a set of quality criteria. Programs must incorporate the four core elements of 1) standards and content, 2) alignment and articulation, 3) accountability and evaluation, and 4) student support services.
Emphasis on Rigor: Oregon's Educational Act for the 21st Century requires the involvement of business and labor in the development and delivery of programs leading to industry certification.  
Pennsylvania Certificate of Mastery: Student Occupational Competency Testing is required by the state department of education. Assessment instruments are developed by the National Occupational Competency Institute.
Rhode Island
South Carolina Emphasis on Rigor: Department of education is to develop a curriculum, aligned with state content standards, organized around a career cluster system that must provide students with both strong academics and real-world problem solving skills. High school students must be provided guidance and curricula that will enable them to successfully complete their individual graduation plans, preparing them for a seamless transition to relevant employment, further training or postsecondary study.

South Dakota Program Approval/Review Process: Beginning with Perkins IV, every approved program in the state must complete a written program improvement process instrument. The instrument focuses on the following seven areas:
  • Student engagement
  • Rigorous coursework
  • Working in cooperation with other programs, academics and business/industry
  • Use of program of study
  • Career guidance
  • Equipment and facilities
  • Holistic improvement planning process

The state completes an onsite formal review of those programs considered "at risk".  The state will also visit programs with new instructors and those receiving grants.

Emphasis on Rigor: State is implementing a program of study in which 'core' standards are developed for every course. Career cluster knowledge and skill statements are used as a guide to develop the courses. The committee developing the standards is composed of secondary educators, business/industry partners and postsecondary instructors.

Funding to Purchase/Adopt Rigorous Programs: State funds are available on a competitive basis.

Texas Program Approval/Review Process: State Performance Based Monitoring Accountability System is in place for CTE. Districts must annualy evaluate their career and technical education programs.
Emphasis on Rigor: Enacted 2007 legislation promoted a career and technical curriculum to fulfill high school and postsecondary education requirements by creating a new review panel for career and technical education curriculum under the Texas Education Agency. Bill requires the state board of education to revise the essential knowledge and skills of the career and technical education curriculum by September 1, 2009.
Vermont Funding to Purchase/Adopt Rigorous Programs: For programs to receive career and technical education funding in Vermont, the career and technical education program must either: result in industry certification; meet industry-approved standards for curriculum, facilities and instruction; or offer dual credit from a higher education partner.
Virginia Program Approval/Review Process: New programs and courses must be approved by the Office of Career and Technical Education and provide documentation of ongoing student interest and workforce opportunities.  All programs are subject to federal program monitoring conducted by the Office of Career and Technical Education.
Certificate of Mastery: State board of education has approved 175 credentials for 72 different career and technical education courses and/or course sequences.  Student assessment for credentials are provided by the National Occupational Competency Institute.
Emphasis on Rigor: The requirements set by the state board of education for a technical diploma must meet or exceed the requirements for a standard diploma and include concentration in career and technical education. Individuals from industry and business are included in the design of the programs. All programs are based on national or industry standards. The state has mandated career and technical education curriculum.
Washington Emphasis on Rigor: Courses must be equivalent to academic core courses.
West Virginia
Wyoming Emphasis on Rigor: Legislature has enacted a "success curriculum" which includes high school graduation requirements. Career and technical education is included in the "success curriculum". Assessments include the use of WorkKeys.

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