All’s well that ends well?

3 min read

Career-Technical Education

As part of SmartBrief Education’s coverage of Path to Workforce, we’ve teamed with the Association for Career and Technical Education to share CTE articles written by educators, for educators. In this blog post, our guest blogger examines the true measure of success for CTE students.

One of the unique features of CTE is the multitude of people it serves. CTE teachers provide services to students in high school, students seeking transfers, people seeking careers, incumbent workers seeking to differentiate themselves in the market and dislocated workers looking for a new set of skills and a fresh start.

We are proud to be a solution to educational needs in a workforce that is increasingly mobile and where people are seldom staying in one location or even in one career path during their working lives. While we are nimble and always trying to keep up with the times, it seems that sometimes how our success is measured hasn’t always kept pace.

The three things we record and report to gauge student success are persistence, retention and graduation. All these things are important and worthy of our attention; however, should these three measures be the main way our success is determined? What of the welding student who comes to us seeking job skills? If that student leaves before completing a degree because he received a wonderful job offer, he is counted the same as someone who dropped out. And what about a student who planned to transfer and does so before completing her credential? She also met her desired outcomes—perhaps earlier than planned—but she is also counted as unsuccessful in the current, narrow vision of completion. Some programs, such as supervisory management, offer classes that stand alone as skill building. Oftentimes, an individual will take a class like this to learn something new with no intention of completing a credential. Does that mean he or she failed? According to the way we report results, the students in these three scenarios could be counted as dropouts and, therefore, failures. Does this make sense? Not according to our mission.

Hopefully, we will see a day when student-identified outcomes become the true measure of success. Perhaps we can develop a way to measure our success in delivering what truly matters to those we serve. It might not be easy, and it probably won’t be the same for everyone, but if we hope to get a true picture of our impact, we should seek nothing less.

This blog post also appears on ACTE’s Educators in Action blog.

Leslie Bleskachek is the vice president of Academic Affairs at Southeast Technical in Red Wing, Minn. She also is the 2015 Region III Fellow for ACTE. Bleskachek started her career as academic program manager at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls and then transitioned to dean and campus manager of Wisconsin Technical College.