In 2015, for the first time, all high school seniors took a new assessment test, WorkKeys, designed to determine whether students are learning the skills they need to enter the workforce.
The results from that first WorkKeys assessment are in and are now available for local systems and schools.
Statewide, 60 percent of high school graduates tested were deemed workforce ready, according to the results. By the State Department of Education’s definition, a student who earned a Silver certificate or higher is workforce ready.
The WorkKeys test was developed by ACT, the same company that offers the ACT, the widely-known test of college readiness. The content of the test was developed using a similar approach to the ACT. ACT surveyed employers to develop a catalog of the foundational skills needed to succeed in the workplace, across industries and occupations. ACT then developed a test to measure whether prospective employees or, in this case, high school students, had those necessary skills to perform in the nearly 20,000 occupations ACT evaluated.
WorkKeys has three core skill assessments: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information. The assessments are then graded, and test-takers are assigned a skill level.
Those scoring at the Platinum Level have demonstrated the skills needed for 99 percent of the occupations in the ACT jobs dataset. Those earning a Gold level certificate should be ready for 93 percent of jobs in the database. Scoring at the Silver level indicates a candidate has the skills necessary to succeed in 67 percent of jobs in the ACT database. Those earning a bronze certificate are judged to be ready for 16 percent of jobs.
Additional information for understanding WorkKey’s scores can be found on ACT’s website.
Statewide, 1 percent of Alabama’s 2015 high school graduates earned a Platinum certificate; 16 percent earned Gold; 44 percent earned Silver. Those graduates were, by the State Board of Education, to be career ready. Graduates who earned a bronze level certificate, 27 percent of graduates, and those who failed to earn a certificate, 13 percent of graduates, did not earn the college and career ready stamp.
When the state’s strategic plan for education, Plan 2020, was adopted by the State Board of Education, the board set a goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate.
At the same time, it set a goal of having all those graduates ready for college and career. Earning a Silver WorkKeys certificate is one way a student can be judged as college and career ready. They can also demonstrate college and career readiness by:
Scoring at or above the college readiness benchmark on one of the tested subjects on the ACT
Earning a passing score (3 or above) on an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam
Receiving an industry-recognized credential recognized in the appropriate business sector
Earning college credit through dual enrollment at a two-year college or university
Successfully enlisting in the U.S. military.
In 2015, 89 percent of Alabama high school students graduated on time, four years after entering the 9th grade. A preliminary State Department of Education analysis found that 68 percent of those graduates met one or more of those college and career ready measures.
ACT WorkKeys assessments have been used for more than two decades by job seekers, employees, employers, students, educators, administrators, and workforce and economic developers. The assessments are designed to measure both cognitive (“hard”) and noncognitive (“soft”) skills tests.
Using the results, students should be able to determine their skill levels, identify skills needing improvement, and match the measured skill levels to specific job requirements.
The results can be provided to employers to demonstrate that a job applicant has the skills needed for workplace success.
You can explore the results for Alabama’s public schools and systems in the interactive charts below.