Analysis of The Integration of Skill Standards into Community College Curriculum

Publication August 2004

The utilization of skill standards in the curriculum development process has become an increasingly prominent aspect of the reform movement in career and technical education over the past 10 years. Standards are seen as a way to achieve better accountability within CTE systems, and improve their quality as well as their alignment with workplace requirements. While they are increasingly in use in both secondary and postsecondary CTE programs, little research has been conducted regarding the extent to which skill standards are currently used by community colleges as a key component of curriculum development, delivery, and assessment. Current literature available on skill standards, however, describes their purpose, initial development, and evolution. Much of the information available is intended for secondary, rather than postsecondary, CTE. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which various industry- and state-based skill standards are integrated into CTE community college curricula.

Using a descriptive survey design, a nationally represented sample of community college career and technical deans were asked to complete a questionnaire that assessed awareness and implementation of industry-based skill standards. For those institutions implementing industry-based skill standards, the questionnaire sought additional information on assessment and credentialing practices. Data were collected across 10 CTE program areas including agriculture; construction/trade; automotive, commercial mechanic, and commercial driver’s license; family and consumer sciences; graphic arts; health occupations; hospitality and hotel management; manufacturing; industrial; and business, administrative, and information technology. Key findings include the following:

  • Three quarters (75.7%) of the reporting institutions use skill standards within postsecondary CTE curricula;
  • The program areas in which respondents reported the highest level of awareness of national industry-based skill standards included manufacturing, construction, automotive, and health occupations;
  • While colleges are implementing both national industry-based and similar state-level standards, more institutions implement the national standards;
  • The program areas in which the highest numbers of community colleges were implementing skill standards included construction (77%), automotive/mechanical (95%), and health occupations (99%);
  • The majority of the community colleges are implementing standards for the purpose of developing curriculum. The purpose least used for implementing skill standards is that of selecting CTE faculty members;
  • For those community colleges that assess students’ achievement of skill standards, the split is fairly equal between the use of traditional knowledge-based assessments, such as paper-and-pencil or computer-based tools, and performance-based/authentic assessments; 
  • The percentages of colleges offering some form of certification/credentialing ranged from 53% in manufacturing to 83% in health occupations. The remaining program areas showed an average of 70% of the colleges offering certificates/credentials;
  • The main method of certification/credentialing is the awarding of a college degree or diploma.

Aragon, S. R., Woo, H.-J., & Marvel, M. R. (2004, August). Analysis of the integration of skill standards into community college curriculum. St Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

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