Notes from the Emerging Worker & Skills Standards Joint Subcommittee Meeting of October 18, 2004 on the Work Readiness Credential Project

State Board Members Attending: Commissioner Richard Mills, Paul Cole, Gerard Pierce, Sherryl Weems
Additional Subcommittee Members for this project attending: John Stoothoff, Reginald Foster, Margarita Mayo
Staff representing State Board members: Mark French (on behalf of Commissioner Johnson, OCFS); Barbara Drago (on behalf of Carole Eaton, SUNY Community Colleges)

Other agencies had representatives in attendance as part of the overall dialog.

The subcommittee set an ambitious agenda which was only partially realized as a result of an in-depth dialog among members on two particular aspects of this project upon which agreement has not yet been reached – the “what is it” and “what is it used for”: the use of the term and issuance of a “credential” and the scoring of the work readiness assessment on a pass/fail or range basis.

“What is it?”:

Commissioner Mills, as a subcommittee co-chair, opened the meeting by indicating that the term “credential” raises serious concerns with the Board of Regents, from whom he takes his direction. He felt the discussion at the September 1, 2004 meeting indicated that the business members of the State Board did not want to move in the direction of the issuance of a credential. He indicated he could not continue to participate in a process that would lead to the issuance of a credential if it would weaken Regents’ efforts to lower high school diploma standards and close the achievement gap for all students. He said that he intended to listen very carefully through the dialog at the meeting to get a better sense of the direction of the project. The Board of Regents is particularly concerned that the issuance of a work readiness credential would detract from the value of the Regents high school diploma and that at-risk youth might pursue the work readiness credential in place of the high school diploma. Whatever is developed must be demonstrably valid and reliable to testing experts in order for the Education Department (SED) and the Board of Regents to support. The Education Department, as a major test developer, currently contracts with experts who could provide this independent evaluation. Based on the September 17 meeting interagency staff held with the assessment development vendors, it was not clear to SED staff if or when the design will achieve the desired result.

Paul Cole, also a subcommittee co-chair, indicated that he did not believe that the high school diploma and the work readiness credential were mutually exclusive. The project the joint subcommittees have undertaken can be analogized to the three-legged stool: standards, assessments, credentials. The subcommittees have agreed on the standards as defined in the EFF profile; the assessment development is now underway and Paul indicated that the discussion on what that credential should look like could be separated from the discussion on assessment development. Even if we separate out the assessment and credential aspects of the project, it was asserted that if you offer the opportunity for an assessment you need to validate that in some manner, and from a worker perspective, Paul believed it was essential that a credential be offered to validate the skills being assessed.

A lengthy and far ranging dialog ensued with all members present speaking to the issue of whether or not the issuance of a credential as a result of taking a work readiness assessment was a vital part of this project and how and if the concerns of the Board of Regents could be addressed within the context of this project:

Commissioner Mills agreed to discuss this issue further with the Board of Regents members and explore options for bringing together those members of the Board of Regents with the joint subcommittee members to engage in a dialog about increasing standards for education and work, and how this multi-state project can help to augment the efforts by the Board of Regents.

Additionally, outreach will be made to our partner states in this project to see how they are addressing the issue of a workforce readiness credential potentially competing with the high school diploma within their states. The states of Washington and Rhode Island have a much more developed workforce credentialing system in place and staff were charged within bringing back to the subcommittees any insight which might help inform how other states were addressing the concerns identified.

“What is it used for?”:

The joint subcommittee members were also briefed on several different meetings which had taken place subsequent to their September 1, 2004, meeting.

  1. September 17 meeting with the assessment development vendors (SRI/HUMRO)

    Interagency staff met with the vendors on September 17, 2004, to gain a better understanding on the issues related to validity and reliability, including concerns about the small sample size.Several aspects of that meeting will help to inform the direction the joint subcommittees will take in terms of the applicability of the assessment in a business context. Key points included:

  2. October 14 Meeting of the Policy Oversight Committee. The amended resolution 1 uses the following language to describe this issue: “All assessment items will be targeted to a specific level of skill commensurate with what the standard defines as necessary for a new worker to be able to carry out his/her responsibilities in the workplace. While all nine skills will be assessed, the assessment report will represent a composite of successful performance across all skills rather than a skill-by-skill report. An individual's ‘score’ on this assessment will be pass or no pass, which corresponds with ‘work ready’ or 'needs more skill development to demonstrate work readiness1.”

    Active dialog among the members ensued on understanding the method by which the cut scores would be established, the use of the scores (proper and improper), what the “floor” would be for each of the nine elements in the profile, and whether it would be more useful to businesses to have the range of scores rather than the composite score. Board members referred back to Resolution #1 adopted by the Policy Oversight Council at their October 14, 2004, meeting as a point of clarity on what the assessment seeks to accomplish.

    While there appeared to be consensus among the subcommittee members that having 9 interpretable scores would be preferable to a composite score, there was not consensus as to whether or not the joint subcommittees could accept as part of this multi-state project that these scores will not be provided by the assessment, as currently planned. It was also pointed out that this would not be feasible because of the time needed to administer.

What’s Next?

Insufficient time remained to work through those parts of the agenda dedicated to discussing the Draft Operating Principles and the Franchise options. The subcommittee members agreed to meet again on November 18, 2004, starting at 8:30 am, prior to the full Board meeting at 1pm.

Concern was expressed that those members unable to attend the meeting needed to be brought up to speed, especially around those aspects of the discussion for which consensus could not be reached.

Staff was charged with redrafting the Operating Principles to reflect aspects of the dialog which had occurred and to develop a draft update to be provided to the full State Board at its November 18th meeting. Commissioner Mills will conduct further briefings with the Board of Regents and will explore possibilities for dialogue.

Additionally, co-chair Gerard Pierce asked that the full State Board agenda include time to discuss the issue of work readiness preparation and the development of a ‘system’ to set those standards.

1 The Guiding Principles for the Credential Delivery System (Resolution III) addresses issues related to providing additional information that enables employers to understand the meaning of the credential and to enable test takers to improve their skills in the areas addressed by the assessment.