Saturday, September 23, 2006

Portable Credentialing

I hope to explain in this post more clearly why Work Keys assessments and job profiling are a problem for all homeschoolers across the nation and not just Michgan homeschoolers. This post follows the posts, To Test? Or not to Test?, We're Facing a National Test, and More on Michgan Testing

In my previous post More on Michigan Testing I said that it will be up to colleges to decide whether they will continue to accept the ACT and not the Michgan Merit Exam (MME). At this point they do, but that could change. Daryl said,

I would put the chances of this happening at roughly zero, since out-of-staters will not have access to the MME.
That's an excellent point. I should be more clear. It isn't the MME that the universities will look for, but the certification or credential that the MME provides. Work Keys (owned and administered by ACT) provides the certification. A candidate with the certification will be more desirable than one without certification. As more states adopt Work Keys, this make the job profiling and credentialing "portable" across state lines. This is also known as a "Certificate of Initial Master" or CIM. A university or employer would look more favorably on a candidate with a CIM than an unknown without the state endorsed CIM. The only way to obtain the credential or CIM is by taking the the state exam. Oregon and Indiana provide an examples of how the certificate is used.

Just last week South Carolina announced it is moving toward a Work Keys testing requirement for its high school students.

Graduates of high schools and technical colleges - as well as those looking for work - will be tested for academic and social abilities and given a certificate of their scoring under a plan adopted by the S.C. Department of Commerce.

WorkKeys is an assessment system offered by Iowa-based nonprofit ACT, which also trains people to consult at businesses and develop profiles for different jobs - detailing what scores are needed for certain positions.

It also advocated including WorkKeys assessment tests as part of, or administered alongside, the state exit exam given to 10th-graders.

This is not about a Michigan exit exam, but a portable credential across state lines. So an out-of-state South Carolina student would be profiled and credentialed in the same way as an in-state Michgian student thanks to Work Keys. And those without the credential (private and homeschoolers) will be considered the least desirable candidate of all, especially if state funding is tied to accepting a certain number of credentialed candidates. ACT and Work Keys provide the national standard that many are clamoring for and the perfect link between education and the national workforce needed to compete in the global economy.

So what's happening in Michigan will affect homeschoolers across the nation. We just happen to be further along in this portion of education reform. But as South Carolina proves, Work Keys assessments are most likely coming to a state near you.

Update: Illinois is already using the ACT with Work Keys. So add them to the list.

The Career Readiness Certificate website is another source of information. This is the website of a consoritum of states that have joined together to develop a regional strategy using Work Keys and adopting a portable credential for their region. The director of the consortium, Barbara Bolin wrote an article for Economic Development Magazine. Here's part of what she said,

In 2003, six states (Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee and West Virginia) plus the District of Columbia agreed that a portable credential that indicated attainment of criterion-referenced workplace literacy skills would be beneficial to the regional economy that spans these states. They then formed a voluntary group, the Career Readiness Certificate Consortium, in order to support and assist each other with the deployment of the certificate.

A common language was needed for such a credential, so it was decided to base the Career Readiness Certificate on WorkKeys assessments (a product of ACT, formerly American College Testing), which over the last 10 years has become a widely accepted common language for skills definition among employers, educators, trainers and potential and incumbent employees.
In a slide show presentation at the Work Keys 2006 Conference Dr. Bolin said this,

Credentials are the new currency of employment. (Slide #14)
And from another slide (#20) she said that 20 states have agreed with the idea that Work Keys should be the common language for the portable credential. A list of states is given in slide #23.

So with 20 states agreeing that Work Keys should be a common standard among educators and employers, that puts the odds a little bit higher than zero. It's just a matter of when the Work Keys portion is joined to each state's high school exam.

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