Use of the CAPS for Predicting Employee Performance

One of the main reason’s companies use aptitude testing is to make better hiring and promotion decisions. Tests are often much better than interviews in predicting whether a person has the potential to do a job well. When designed properly, aptitude tests can fairly and objectively compare the potential of different candidates. One of the most important aspects of a test is that it is both valid and reliable, so you can be assured of a fair process and that your hiring practices are legally defensible if challenged. The Career Ability Placement Survey (CAPS) is a comprehensive, multi-dimensional battery designed to measure abilities related to performing a job. Typically, this test is used in conjunction with values and interest assessments in the COPSystem VIA package, but it can also be used by organizations to support hiring decisions. The following presents a case study of an organization that used the CAPS for employee selection and shows that it differentiated between high and low performers.

Job performance is one of the most important outcomes at work and has been defined as the measurable proficiency of work behavior that is under employees’ control and contributes to organizational goals (Campbell, McCloy, Oppler, & Sager, 1993). Since performance ratings are associated with employees’ salary and promotion, studying their predictors is of high interest for both organizational researchers and practitioners. Schmidt and Hunter (1998) established mental ability as one of the best predictors of overall job performance. In another meta-analysis on the predictive validity of specific cognitive abilities for job performance, Bertua, Anderson, and Salgado (2005) distinguished between seven occupational groups (clerical, engineer, professional, driver, operator, manager, and sales) and their results showed significant validities for predicting job performance within all those groups. As mental ability has been shown to be a predictor of job performance, we expected that it would be a strong predictor of job performance ratings.

Research on the main aspects of mental ability has often consisted of the following characteristics: learning, problem solving, information processing, and reasoning. For example, Gottfredson (1997) described mental ability as “the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience” (p. 13). According to Jensen (1989), learning has occurred when a change in a specific response to a given stimulus, situation, or problem was observed. Problem solving can be defined as successfully transferring a given actual state to a target state by overcoming barriers (Dunbar, 1998). Information processing involves transforming information and creating new information (Oberauer, Süß, Wilhelm, & Wittman, 2003). Finally, reasoning “is a process which may occur at any point in a thought-movement and consists in the appreciation of likeness and differences between old experiences and a new situation” (Skaggs, 1930, p. 439). Each of these mental abilities can be measured individually to consider a person’s aptitude, but the optimal use is for them to be used as part of a comprehensive battery to measure ability level related to work potential.

The Career Ability Placement Survey (CAPS) helps examinees relate their current levels of ability to career clusters. It is a comprehensive, multidimensional battery designed to measure abilities that are related to performing a job. There are eight ability dimensions keyed to entry level requirements for occupations in each of the 14 COPSystem VIA Career Clusters.  Measures included in the CAPS are mechanical reasoning, spatial relations, verbal reasoning, numerical ability, language usage, word knowledge, perceptual speed and accuracy, and manual speed and dexterity. Scores are combined from each individual test depending on skill requirements for each career cluster to determine level of ability within each career cluster.  The Technology, Professional career cluster is comprised of scores from the mechanical reasoning, spatial relations, verbal reasoning, numerical ability, and word knowledge tests. The CAPS is a valid and reliable battery with test-retest reliability coefficients ranging from .70 to .95. To establish concurrent validity, correlations with the General Aptitude Test Battery were obtained and ranged from .63 to .80 between conceptually similar tests. Correlations were obtained between CAPS tests and grades in specific subject areas. These correlations ranged from .30 to .60 between the CAPS tests and the subject to which it was most closely related. For example, the CAPS numerical ability test had the highest correlations with grades in math. These results are significant and demonstrate the validity of the CAPS.  Predictive validity studies show that ability scores are significantly related to subsequent career choice and may also predict job-performance associated with that career choice (Knapp, L., Knapp, R. & Knapp-Lee, 2009).

Employee data from an organization were analyzed to assess the effectiveness of the CAPS as a selection tool in predicting job performance. A sample of 128 employees were included in the analysis. All employees had completed the CAPS and had supervisor job performance ratings which were based on a scale of 1-5 (1 = highest performers, 5 = lowest performers; scores were then reverse coded so that higher rated employees received higher scores for analysis).  Employees were categorized into one of three groups. In order to distinguish between high and low performers the top two tiers, rated as 1 and 2, were combined (N = 40), and the lowest two tiers, rated as 4 and 5, were combined (N = 29). Average rated employees, rated as 3, (N = 61) were their own category (see Table 1 for means and standard deviations of test scores). Predictive validity of the scores on the CAPS was assessed by comparing categories of employee job ratings based on their CAPS scores.

The CAPS scores are presented in two profiles. One profile the CAPS Ability Profile reports scores in terms of individual scores on each of the eight subtests. The other report, the CAPS Career Profile, compares the CAPS scores to probability of success in terms of ability within a career cluster. When examining the scores on each of the eight CAPS subtests, the highest rated employees had higher average scores on all the eight CAPS tests than the average rated employees and the lowest performers. Additionally, the employee data from the CAPS Career Profile were analyzed to determine how well the CAPS predicted success within a career cluster. All the employees listed job titles were classified within the Technology cluster. Specifically, examining the Technology, Professional cluster, the high achievers were all predicted to succeed in that occupational cluster whereas, the middle and low performers were below the cutoff score for success in that cluster. In addition, when examining the scores for each group across each career cluster the higher rated employees had uniformly higher scores than both the medium and low performers.

A linear regression was calculated to predict employee rating scores based in Technology Professional scores. A significant relationship between employee rating and Technology Professional scores was found, F(1, 127) = 88.302, p < .001 (see Table 2). Technology Professional scores accounted for 41.2% of the employees’ performance rating (see Table 2). Technology Professional scores significantly predicted employee rating, as Technology Professional scores increased so did employee rating scores.  A univariate analysis of variance compared employees rated in performance levels 3-5 as compared to employees rated at levels 1-2 on the Technology Professional cluster. The analysis showed a significant difference between the groups ranked as lower performing as compared to the groups ranked as higher performing F(1, 128) = 67.14, p < .001 (see Table 3). The employees that had performance ratings of 1 and 2 were significantly higher than those rated at 3,4,5 showing that the CAPS is a good predictor of success on the job. A second analysis showed a significant difference between high rated employees (1-2) and average employees (3). High rated employees scored higher on the Technology Professional cluster than average rated employees, F(1, 128) = 26.458, p < .001 (see Table 3).

The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the CAPS when used as a selection tool for employee performance.  An organization provided employee performance scores as rated by the employee’s supervisor, and CAPS scores for each employee.  The current study provides evidence that the CAPS can be used to predict job performance, specifically when the individual tests are combined to match a profile that aligns with the ability levels and requirements of job categories.  Analysis of the employee performance data and CAPS scores show additional validity that the CAPS measures job-related abilities that are relevant and applicable to the Technology, Professional career cluster, and can be used in other settings such as different career clusters.

References

Bertua, C., Anderson, N., & Salgado, J. F. (2005). The predictive validity of cognitive ability tests: A UK meta‐analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 78(3), 387-409.

Campbell, J. P., McCloy, R. A., Oppler, S. H., & Sager, C. E. (1993). A theory of performance. Personnel selection in organizations, 3570, 35-70.

Dunbar, R. I. (1998). The social brain hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews: Issues, News, and Reviews, 6(5), 178-190.

Gottfredson, L. S. (1997). Why g matters: The complexity of everyday life. Intelligence, 24(1), 79-132.

Jensen, A. R. (1989). The relationship between learning and intelligence. Learning and Individual Differences, 1(1), 37-62.

Oberauer, K., Süß, H. M., Wilhelm, O., & Wittman, W. W. (2003). The multiple faces of working memory: Storage, processing, supervision, and coordination. Intelligence, 31(2), 167-193.

Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological bulletin, 124(2), 262.

Skaggs, E. B. (1930). The essential nature and definition of reasoning. The Journal of General Psychology, 3(3), 435-442.

Table 1. Means and standard deviations for the two CAPS cluster scores of Technology and of each CAPS subtest score by employee rating.

Table 2. Regression results of employee performance predicting Technology Professional scores.

Table 3. ANOVA results comparing high vs low rated employees, and high vs average rated employees.

Compatibility of the CAPS Abilities with Other Assessments

One of the benefits of using the complete COPSystem VIA is that you have full access to all of your scores to use in comprehensive career exploration. The results page of the COPSystem allows students to review their top three career matches to pursue based on their highest rated values, interests, and abilities. Additionally, students are shown the abilities where their strengths would be useful in a career if they wanted to explore that path, even if it was not one of their highest interest scores based on the completed survey. This can be especially beneficial for students exploring career paths as it gives them more options to research. It can be the case that students don’t realize their interest in an area until they discover that they are good at it. The CAPS results help students discover how high school classes can help them reach their career goals. While it is certainly helpful to identify the top two or three areas of interests and strengths for a student, it is not ideal to limit them to those career paths when there are more areas that can be pursued.

Furthermore, measuring values provides students with a more complete picture of the type of career that they think will be the best fit for them. The COPSystem is the optimal tool for career exploration as it provides students with a comprehensive and clear picture of career exploration possibilities all within the same easy to use and interpret online platform.

In a recent study, data were collected from 611 high school students in the Midwest who were participants in the college and careers program. Scores from another company’s interest assessment (similar to the Interest assessment offered in the COPsystem VIA) and the CAPS ability battery were compared to evaluate the effectiveness of matching abilities and interests using the two tests as a tool for career guidance. Only the top two scores from the other inventory were available, whereas the CAPS reports ability scores for all 14 career clusters. The CAPS provides probability of success cut-off scores for each career cluster. Any score above the cut-off score results in a plus, or ability match for a student, which indicates that the student would be able to complete job related tasks adequately based on their current ability level. The advantage of the CAPS is that students look at both their strengths and weaknesses in terms of ability and decide whether they would like more training to improve some of their lower scores or if they would like to pursue a career aligned with their strengths. It is of great help in planning for high school courses and future career pathways.

Interest clusters from the other inventory were compared to the COPS interest clusters so that scores could be matched on like scales (See Appendix for a comparison of U.S.O.E. and COPS interest clusters). Once similar clusters were identified from each assessment, CAPS ability scores were used to evaluate whether the students’ abilities and interests were considered a match. A “Professional” match is for students who would be encouraged to pursue a college degree, and “Skilled” match is for students who would be encouraged to enter the workforce or pursue trade schools.

Data from the 611 students were analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the CAPS battery in matching interests and abilities. In the current sample, 100% of students had a match between their first ranked career interest, and their CAPS ability score. Of the 611 students, 135 had matches falling within the Service Skilled, Outdoor, or Technology skilled clusters which all contain job tasks that can be performed at relatively low ability levels, so the cutoff for these clusters is generous. For further analysis the 135 students from these matches were not included. Of the remaining sample of 476 students, 262 (55%) had a match between their first highest rated interest and abilities associated with a “Professional” career cluster; meaning they would be encouraged to pursue a college degree or post high school education.

The remaining 214 students (45%) had a match on their first highest rated interest with a “Skilled” level cluster; meaning they would be encouraged to pursue careers in career and technical education (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Pie chart depicting percentage of students who would be encouraged to pursue college vs. enter the workforce based on CAPS Career Cluster match.

For the second highest interest match, 258 students were excluded because either the interest scores were missing, or they were part of the group previously discussed. Of the remaining sample of 353 students, 251 (71%) had a “Professional” match on their second highest interest score, and 102 (29%) had a “Skilled” match (See Figure 2).

Figure 2. Pie chart depicting percentage of students who would be encouraged to pursue college vs. enter the workforce based on CAPS Career Cluster match.

It should also be noted that there is some overlap between the 1st and 2nd highest interest match and students encouraged to pursue college, such that the highest performing students in the ability battery scored on average higher across all career clusters in ability levels. There were 184 students that had “Professional” matches on their 1st and 2nd career clusters, but they were not singled out in this analysis because we were interested in the assessing the CAPS at an aggregate level instead of on an individual level.

The CAPS ability battery when used in conjunction with an interest inventory from another company does provide students with career guidance that can be used to determine a path forward. Research shows that career satisfaction is related not only interests and abilities, but values as well (Knapp-Lee, 1996), which is included in the COPSystem VIA. This creates a more comprehensive and clearer picture of where students can focus their career exploration.

Combined with the Career Briefs, the COPSystem VIA is a comprehensive career exploration package that allows students and counselors to explore more career options and find the best fit for them. This easy to use platform gives students access to their full data including values, interests, and abilities and allows them a complete and more wide-ranging career exploration which leads to greater success in finding the ideal person-job fit.

Reference
Knapp-Lee, L. (1996). Use of the COPES, A Measure of Work Values, in Career Assessment. Journal of Career Assessment, 4, 429-443.

Appendix

Why Choose the COPSystem

The COPSystem is Unique
It is one of the few assessment packages that includes the measurement of three components that are critical to career exploration, selection, and satisfaction. The COPSystem measures:

  • Values – what is important to you?
  • Interests – what do you like to do?
  • Abilities – what are you good at?

Valid and Reliable
The COPSystem has been in wide use for over 50 years with a proven history of research that supports its accuracy and usefulness in career exploration and choice. Over 65% of the time the COPSystem results match a future college major or occupational choice. A summary of the reliability and validity is available here.

Easy to Use
The COPSystem is easy to administer and easy to explain to clients so they can understand the results. The results are organized into logical career clusters that link to an occupational database of over 1,300 job descriptions that include training, salary, expected outlook, and links to both O*Net and live job postings powered by Indeed.com.

Has a Wide Variety of Options to Meet your Client Needs
The COPSystem is a completely accessible package that is available as a web-based application or also available in paper/pencil in those situations where there is limited internet access. It is also available in Spanish translations for both paper and online formats. It is completely accessible to screen reader applications for people that are sight impaired. The inventories are written at a sixth grade reading level.

Works for all Educational Levels
Norms are available for educational levels of grade 7-12, college and adult. Other forms are available for school children and non reading adults.

Results That Work
The COPSystem is the optimal tool for use in the career exploration. When clients review their results they have the “oh wow this is me” experience that makes the entire process useful, worthwhile and enjoyable. It is educational and allows test takers to learn something about themselves and their options for many career paths in the process.

Translated Versions of the DOSC

The Dimensions Of Self-Concept (DOSC) is an inventory designed to measure self-concept in the school setting. In the past few years the DOSC has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Portuguese. The validity and reliability of the DOSC has been examined across four cultures in a series of six studies. The authors confirmed the validity of the five DOSC scales across cultures.

The scales measured by the DOSC are Level of Aspiration, Level of Anxiety, Academic Interest and Satisfaction, Leadership and Initiative, and Identification vs. Alienation.

In a study of the Chinese translated DOSC, Huang and Michael (2000) administered the DOSC to junior high students in grades 7 through 9, and found support for the validity of the DOSC. Alpha coefficients for the scales are reported in Table 1. In an additional study the authors found some support for the independence of the scales but the evidence was less consistent (Huang and Michael, 2002). The authors suggested more research needs to be conducted to verify the multidimensionality of a Chinese translation of the DOSC.

Paik and Michael (1999) found satisfactory reliabilities as well as support for the five scales of the DOSC with a Japanese sample. The alpha coefficients for a sample of 354 females are shown in the image below.

In a study of Korean students, reliabilities were satisfactory and are reported in Table 1 (Chong & Michael, 2000). There were some interesting findings with respect to the Academic Interest and Satisfaction scale that were attributable to a cultural difference. The dominant motivation for Koreans may be extrinsic rather than intrinsic, which may lead to inconsistent results with respect to this scale.

DOSC Trnslated.qxd

Villar, Michael and Gribbons (1995a, 1995b) conducted two studies confirming the multidimensionality of the DOSC scales for a Portuguese population. They found reliabilities ranging from .80 to .86 for two independent Portuguese populations which are presented in Table 1. As reported in studies for other translations of the DOSC, support was demonstrated for the multidimensionality of the DOSC scales across cultures.

In this series of verification studies for the DOSC, it is evident that self-concept is multidimensional across cultures. The DOSC is a useful tool for measuring self-concept in the school setting both in the U.S. and in other countries.

References

Chong, S. & Michael, W. B. (2000). A construct validity study of scores on a Korean version of an academic self-concept for secondary school students. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 60, 117-130.

Huang, C. & Michael, W. B. (2000). A confirmatory factor analysis of scores on a Chinese version of an academic self-concept scale and its invariance across groups. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 60, 772-786.

Huang, C. & Michael, W. B. (2002). Multi-trait – Multi-method analyses of scores on a Chinese version of the Dimensions of Self-Concept scale. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 62, 355-372.

Paik, C. & Michael, W. B. (1999). A construct validity investigation of scores on a Japanese version of the academic self-concept scale for secondary school students. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 59, 98-110.

Villar, I. D., Michael, W. B., & Gribbons, B. (1995a). The development and construct validity of a Portuguese version of an academic self-concept scale. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 55, 115-123.

Villar, I. D., Michael, W. B., & Gribbons, B. (1995b). Further evidence of the construct validity and reliability of a Portuguese version of an academic self-concept scale. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 55, 1032-1038.

Implementing Standards-Based Classrooms

The purpose of the Practical Handbook to Standards-Based Classrooms and The Guide for Standards-Based Classrooms is to assist teachers in their professional development activities. The second edition has updated information and a new look!

During the last several years, accountability targets have become intensified at all levels of public education. Now teachers are expected to know and to teach standards effortlessly. Schools must achieve or be placed on the “improvement list.” In addition, many states have passed regulations to link a teacher’s classroom achievement level to professional standing and financial incentives. The Guide for Standards-Based Classrooms and the Practical Handbook to Standards-Based Classrooms are ideal tools to be used for professional development training sessions. The Guide may be used as a pre-assessment tool in order to determine a teacher’s level in implementing standards-based classrooms.

Once the Guide has been used for pre-assessment, teachers may then use the Handbook to help establish lesson plans. Below is an example of the questions you can ask about a lesson plan that worked, helping you move from activities-based to standards-based teaching.

Getting Started…

Think of a lesson that worked well with your students. What made it work?

Here are 10 guiding questions to help you deconstruct your lesson and explore your current teaching practice:

  1. Was the lesson linked to a mandated standard?
  2. What was the primary purpose of the lesson?
  3. Did you identify the enabling skills or prerequisites required to achieve the lesson objectives?
  4. Did you provide opportunities for a variety of student levels in learning and performing? Did you plan separate instructional activities to reach every student?
  5. Was the assessment centered in authentic, contextualized tasks or performances?
  6. Did the assessment provide students various options for the showing what they know and can do?
  7. What opportunities to revise were available to students?
  8. What was your feedback procedure?
  9. How did you used the results from the assessment? Did you share the results with your team or colleagues?
  10. What made you decide it was a successful lesson?

There are five essential components that are presented in the Handbook. The rubric for each component is listed and is followed by a set of activities and examples that will facilitate the implementation of a standards-based classroom. The components are:

  • Content Targets for Instructional Planning
  • Test, Products and Performance
  • Models and Rubrics
  • Instructional Delivery
  • Feedback and Reporting

sb-wheel

Once the Handbook information has been covered, teachers may go back to the Guide for post-assessment to make sure that progress has been made and to identify further areas for concern and improvement. These tools are valuable because they are easy to use and understand. Our standards-based products are successful in helping teachers transfer from traditional methods to a standards-based approach.

Work Values are Important in Career Selection

When individuals make a list of some of the important aspects of career selection they often take into account interests and job skills or abilities but overlook work values. Besides knowing the “3 R’s,” there are several important character traits or work values that lead to career success and satisfaction. According to a study published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills and honesty/integrity were the two most important traits that employers valued. Developing these character skills are not only helpful in finding a career but also lead to more satisfaction in a career.

Robert Orndoff (2004) writes in the National Career Development Association newsletter (NACE, 2005) that the “Big Two” career development topics found in most K-12 career development plans are Career Exploration and Job Searching. While both topics are important, he emphasizes that there is a third career topic that often gets overlooked —

Developing career skills and character traits that will make students marketable for top colleges and jobs, and ultimately successful in career and life.

Not only aptitudes are important but how well a student’s personality and natural character fits a job is significant and may be more influential than interests and aptitudes in some cases. Character education needs to be part of the career education process. The COPSystem assessments not only measure an individual’s interests and abilities as they relate to occupations, but also measure work values and may be a good starting point in a character education component of a career guidance unit. The COPES helps students define how values relate to occupations by measuring the importance of such work environment preferences as Leadership, Independence, or being Social.

One of the unique features of the COPES is that work values are related to the COPSystem Career Clusters, shown below.

Figure 2. Relationship of COPES Values to Career Clusters

Educating students within the framework of Career Clusters can also help students academically by demonstrating the relevance of their education to occupations. According to Kim Green, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, “Career clusters offer great potential in providing a new framework for career education by promoting academic achievement, fostering successful students’ skills, and meeting new accountability requirements in a more systemic manner” (Career Tech Update, April 2004).

As students begin the career exploration process, it is important for them to have sufficient information so that they will be able to identify the most advantageous career possibilities. With the COPSystem assessments, they can learn more about what interests them, identify and build on their strengths, and explore which types of jobs are most compatible with their personality. Using the results from the COPSystem, students are much more likely to have a more complete picture to prepare them for a career.

References

ACTE (2004, April 28) Career clusters can provide essential link between CTE and academics. Career Tech Update 4, 15. Retrieved April 28, 2004 from http://www.acteonline.org.

Orndoff, R. (2004). Developing students’ career skills and academic proficiencies while centering on character. NCDA Newsletter. Retrieved August 1, 2004 from http://www.ncda.org.

NACE (2005, January 20). Communication skills, honesty/integrity top employers “wish list” for job candidates.

The CAPS Helps Employers Identify Training Needs

The Bellwood assembly plant, of Borg-Warner Automotive Inc., administered the Career Ability Placement Survey (CAPS) to measure job success and identify work-related areas that need improvement. The CAPS measures eight cognitive dimensions: Mechanical Reasoning, Spatial Relations, Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Ability, Language Usage, Word Knowledge, Perceptual Speed and Accuracy, and Manual Speed and Dexterity.

Employees in most industries are required to adapt to new technology and must be trained in a variety of tasks that may extend outside their formal role, or job description. For this purpose, the CAPS functions as an efficient and comprehensive training and development tool for Human Resources.

The Life Skills program was developed to provide employees with help in basic skill attainment, such that a strong foundation could be established in order to increase their capacity to learn new skills more quickly. This was seen as a critical component of the company’s strategic learning initiative, designed to increase their ability to adapt to changing market conditions by leveraging their human resource capabilities.

All employees who were eligible for a promotion take the CAPS. Reading and basic math skills were emphasized because the trainers believed that improvement in these areas would positively influence performance related outcomes, as well as improve trainees’ personal lives.

The program was designed to last for up to two hundred hours; however, some employees were in the program for as few as forty hours before they met or exceeded their individual training goals. The CAPS has shown that it can be used in a variety of employment and industry settings.

The training needs assessment is an important part of any training program in an organization. Only when knowledge and skill gaps have been identified can a time efficient learning strategy be developed that is linked to an organization’s strategic plan. As such, executive leadership is able to better leverage their human resource capabilities to accomplish long term goals. Additionally, the availability of professional learning and development opportunities communicate an organization’s willingness to promote employee well-being by investing in programs that are designed to aid both employee and employer.

The Link With Leverage

Standards-based report cards use feedback to improve achievement

Remember back to your report cards days? Did you ever find yourself wondering how you received a certain grade? Perhaps you were shocked to see you were marked down when you thought you had worked hard, done all your homework, and passed all the teacher’s tests. Maybe the reverse of that was your experience; you couldn’t believe you got such a high grade, especially when you had missed so much school.

Today, many students and parents are receiving direct and appropriate feedback through standards-based report card programs. This new report card system is directly aligned to the required curriculum standards and serves as a basis for monitoring student progress and conducting parent conferences. Students are no longer in the dark about what they need to do in order to be proficient, and parents are clearer on school expectations.

School districts across the country have started to implement standards-based report cards. Educators report there are challenges and concerns as the new system is introduced, but all agree the results are worthwhile.

Tools that are helpful for teachers to adapt the standards-based model are the Practical Handbook to Standards-Based Classrooms and the Guide for Standards-Based Classrooms. The Guide is a performance-based assessment for teachers so that they may gauge their progress from activities-centered teaching to standards-based practice. After identifying a plan-of-action from the profile, teachers can use the companion reference for professional development.

Districts that have used a standards-based reporting system for five years or more are convinced it is a resounding success by providing students clear, appropriate feedback on their progress. “Once instructional targets are identified and published—in the classroom and on the report card—students see the direct link between their efforts and their grades,” states an elementary educator.

Some teachers report that the standards-based report card and the companion standards-based parent conferencing has contributed to a positive learning climate within the classrooms. “They are no longer guessing at what is important for them to learn,” another educator reports. Students know what instruction is essential and what tests “will cover.” This clarity reduces some of the stress for students and teachers.

Teachers also find that one of the byproducts of the new grading system has been a more thoughtful approach to designing classroom assessments. A fourth grade teacher shares her perspective: “No longer do I view my tests for sorting kids, but for benefiting student learning. My students seem empowered as they understand the quizzes will not be a ‘gotcha’ moment, but rather an opportunity to show what they know and what they still need help with in order to achieve the standards.”

Parents appreciate the standards-based report cards and the direct link to learning requirements. They report a deeper understanding of what questions to ask the teacher about their child’s progress. Home support and resources are easier to compliment the classroom learning. One parent reports: “Knowing what is involved for each performance level is helpful. Now I understand how [the rubrics] support learning.”

At the high school level the degree of use is limited. Translating the standards’ performance levels into a traditional letter grade format remains a challenge. But secondary level teachers are exploring ways to use standards-based rubrics in key projects and senior portfolios.

Standards-based report card programs have demonstrated that providing a direct link between curriculum and grading makes the implicit explicit, and results in a powerful impact on teaching and learning. The Practical Handbook to Standards-Based Classrooms and the Guide for Standards-Based Classrooms make implementing standards-based report cards easy.

Career Education for Students with Special Needs

Career education is important for all students and EdITS offers the Instructional Guide for Career Education kit, as part of the CERES program, to assist special needs students in acquiring skills for occupational planning. Since career education is a life-long process, instructional activities begin at the primary level and extend through the secondary grades. Early activities focus on promoting self-awareness while older students begin to explore options, learn about personal characteristics, and prepare to enter the world of work.

The Kit addresses six career education goal areas for special education:

  1. Economic Self-Sufficiency
  2. Self-Awareness
  3. Academic Abilities
  4. Health and Safety
  5. Civic Responsibilities
  6. Family Living

For each of the goals, specific skill areas have been identified and performance objectives have been developed to assure student achievement in critical areas of skill development.

These skill areas are:

  • Information – gathering or sharing through study and experiences.
  • Problem Solving – through study, questioning or consultation with the appropriate person or source.
  • Attitudes – the motivation and loyalty with which a person approaches and performs a task.

Teachers monitor student progress with the Individual Skill Tracking Record. This record has two blocks, pre and post, for recording the date of introduction and completion of the objective. A reporting slip is given to the child upon satisfactory completion of each skill. Parents are encouraged to follow and record their child’s progress with the Parent’s Tracking Record and Manual provided.

The COPS Intermediate Inventory (COPS II) is an ideal assessment to use in conjunction with the CERES special education program. The COPS II is written at a fourth grade reading level and is easy to administer out loud in a small group or individual setting. The COPS II was completely updated in 2011 with new job titles and wording. Also available is the COPS Picture Inventory of Careers (COPS-PIC) for non-readers. Use of the CERES and the COPS II or COPS-PIC will give special needs students a complete and comprehensive career guidance unit.

Career Education for Everyone

Many U.S. school districts are structuring their secondary schools around career pathways and emphasizing the importance of career education for a myriad of reasons, some of which include the premise that coursework relevance helps student performance and decreases dropout rates. One way to integrate career education into school curriculum and lead students on a successful career path, is the Career Education Responsive to Every Student (CERES) program.

CERES program materials

  1. Elementary Student Workbooks and corresponding Teacher Guides
  2. Secondary Level Infusion and Guidance Compendiums (these contain subject specific career education activities)
  3. K-12 set of Special Education Activities
  4. A variety of supplementary materials that promote collaboration with parents, local businesses, and community organizations

CERES is a K-12 career education curriculum based on a model of career guidance goals that are integrated with basic skills introduction. CERES provides all students in grades K-12, including special education, with opportunities to acquire workplace skills. An added benefit of integrating career education throughout the curriculum is that as students see the relevance of their course work to actual occupations or careers, interest in school increases and dropout rates decline. CERES materials are available for all K-12 levels and include a K-12 kit of special education activities.

CERES also offers training materials that promote the adoption of the program on a school-wide or district-wide basis. In fact, CERES is ideally suited for adoption within a school or district and sets the stage for students to be fully prepared for life after high school in the working world.

Implementation workshops are developed for school staff, district staff, or a consortium representing several districts. One full day of training with a follow-up training 6 to 8 months later is recommended.

The approximately 6-hour training session consists of an overview, hands-on activities, a review of materials, and ends with planning time for classroom use. The overview introduces staff and administrators to CERES and career education.

Activities enable participants to experience first-hand what students are asked to do. When participants leave they know what CERES is, how to integrate career education into a classroom and what their responsibilities and plans are for the future.

If CERES is successfully implemented in a school system, academic achievement should improve, and students will be better prepared to enter the workforce directly or to continue their education. One of the most important benefits of implementing career education in all subjects is that school work becomes more meaningful, relevant and useful, and provides students with more academic motivation. By integrating career education concepts and directly relating them to curriculum, students are able to meet the goal of learning skills that help them succeed both in their academics and their occupations.