In 2020, Alabama is in the midst of one of the most significant workforce initiatives in the state’s history. Reports have highlighted the need for 500,000 additional highly skilled workers by 2025 who have earned a high-value, industry-recognized credential.
The Business Education Alliance of Alabama (BEA) commissioned PARCA, with support from the A+ Education Partnership, to provide research that would bring coherence, clarity, and guidance to the state’s effort to meet these goals. That research report, Education Matters, was released by the BEA in January 2020.
The report outlines the state’s system for workforce development. It provides data on key performance measures of the education-to-workforce pipeline. And it takes a close look at career and technical education as part of a larger focus on college and career readiness in Alabama.
Through this analysis, the report highlights challenges that need to be addressed.
- Improving basic math and literacy instruction: Alabama’s performance on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and math are falling short of neighboring states and the nation.
- Closing the gap between high school graduation and college and career readiness: While 90 percent of students are graduating from high school, only 75 percent are identified as college and career ready (CCR).
- Accurately measuring college and career readiness: Authentic college and career readiness requires a solid foundation in English, reading, and math, applied cognitive skills, soft skills, and occupation-specific skills. Are the current indicators of college and career readiness in the state accurately reflecting these skills?
- Promoting quality credentials: Data indicate that in some cases high schools are driving up the number of career and technical education certifications earned without attention to whether the certificates are rigorous or in alignment with state needs.
- Systematically collecting and analyzing education and workforce data: Alabama’s planned longitudinal database continues to be delayed. While there are technical challenges, the primary obstacles are political—rooted in the state’s longstanding resistance to data transparency. While the lack of transparency satisfies some, it is not in the best interest of the economy, the workforce, or the Alabamians served by the state.
To meet the state’s needs and goals, more collaboration needs to occur between business, high school career and technical education, and postsecondary education.
Read all of PARCA’s findings in the full Education Matters report here.