CTE For Real

IV. Model Frameworks


Career Ladders and Laddering Curriculum

The AECP concept is founded on an approach to curriculum and career preparation in which the student (who may also be an employee) progresses through a series of steps, like rungs on a ladder. Hence the terms career ladder and ladder curriculum.


As illustrated below (and in section II, "Essentials of Career Pathways and Adult Education Career Pathways"), each academic ladder needs to be aligned with the corresponding career ladder in industry.


Adapted from National Center on Education and the Economy, Guide to Adult Education for Work:
Transforming Adult Education to Grow a Skilled Workforce
, 2009


Florida Eight Areas of Focus
FL#1–Program Design
  FL#2–Curriculum and Instruction
  FL#3–Professional Development
  FL#4–Student Support

OVAE 10 Component Framework
OVAE#1–Legislation and Policies
  OVAE#3–Professional Development
  OVAE#4–Accountability and Evaluation Systems
  OVAE#5–College and Career Readiness Standards
OVAE#6–Course Sequences
  OVAE#7–Credit Transfer Agreements
  OVAE#8–Guidance Counseling and Academic Advisement
  OVAE#9–Teaching and Learning Strategies
  OVAE#10–Technical Skills Assessments
A career ladder is a series of steps or occupational levels within a given company or occupation. Employees work their way up career ladders by increasing their knowledge and skills and contributing to the success of the companies for which they work. In most cases, each rung requires a higher level of knowledge and skills than the one(s) below it and rewards the employee with higher pay and/or other benefits. Whether, and how fast, a person advances along a career ladder is determined by his or her ability to meet standards, specific requirements as to what the person must know and be able to do before moving up. Some standards are developed locally by individual companies. Others are developed by government agencies, professional associations, or advisory boards that oversee entire industries.


In an AECP, cooperating employers—some of whom might normally be competitors—develop a common career ladder that is applied consistently among the AECP students who work for those employers. (Hinckley et al., Adult Career Pathways: Providing a Second Chance in Public Education, CORD, 2011)


Just as a career ladder denotes a series of job-performance levels, each corresponding to certain knowledge and skills within a given occupational area, a ladder curriculum consists of a series of educational levels that students are expected to attain as they move through their programs. When the programs are career-focused, as is the case with AECP, the knowledge and skills to be mastered through the ladder curriculum should be determined jointly by educators and employers. Employers are uniquely qualified to say what employees in their fields should know and be able to do. By definition, every AECP curriculum advisory committee should include representatives of the employers for whom the AECP students will work. (Hinckley et al., Adult Career Pathways)


There is no standard template for creating a ladder curriculum. Because of its flexibility, the ladder curriculum model can be customized for different settings. In some cases, it might not take the form of a ladder—in which students progress in a strictly linear fashion—but rather a lattice or web, allowing for lateral movement as well. Not all students are able to work through their educational programs sequentially without stopping. Some make lateral moves, exiting their programs to take care of personal needs, work full time, or acquire additional knowledge and skills appropriate to their current levels before progressing to the next levels.


Program Design

Program design involves considerations such as outreach, assessment, and credentialing. The following flowchart, developed by Social Policy Research Associates on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration (August 2011), provides questions that should be asked during the program design process.



Every AECP should consist of three design components: (1) The main focus is on transitioning or bridging adults from basic to college-level skills, especially math, reading, and writing courses. (2) Every program should provide clear pathways for participants, regardless of their skill level at the point of entry. (3) Every program should provide a visual diagram or road map that shows multiple entry and exit points and depicts vertical and lateral movement within each occupation or career cluster.


The following figure shows these three components.


Curriculum Frameworks

As with Career Pathways in general, the structural design for the curriculum framework of the AECP should include the following three levels:
  • Foundational level—Contextual academics, career experiences, and basic work skills
  • Technical core level—Technical skills within a cluster and work-based learning
  • Technical specialty level—Advanced technical skills, advanced academics, and worksite experiences
The structure of an AECP will always differ from that of a conventional grade-9–14 Career Pathway. Whereas grade-9–14 Career Pathways give students three or more years of high school to explore careers and acquire soft skills and basic technical skills, the adult learner in an AECP program must usually cover the same territory in one semester. Another key difference has to do with focus. Grade-9–14 Career Pathways are intentionally broad so that students' options remain open, especially while they are still in high school. Even at the conclusion of grade 14 (the associate degree), the student is prepared not so much for a specific job as for a range of jobs within a cluster. With AECP, on the other hand, the student begins very early to focus on a specific job, even a specific employer.



The US Department of Labor's Credential Resource Guide defines the term credential as "a verification of qualification or competence issued to an individual by a third party with the relevant authority or jurisdiction to issue such credentials (such as an accredited educational institution, an industry-recognized association, or an occupational association or professional society)" (http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL15-10a2.pdf). The guide provides the following definitions for different types of credentials.



Characteristics of Credentials


Industry-Recognized—Industry-recognized credentials are either developed or endorsed by a nationally-recognized industry association or organization and are sought or accepted by companies within the industry sector for purposes of hiring or recruitment.


Stackable—A credential that is part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual's qualifications are considered stackable. Typically, stackable credentials help individuals move up a career ladder or along a career pathway to different and potentially higher-paying jobs.


Portable—Credentials that are recognized and accepted as verifying the qualifications of an individual in other settings—either in other geographic areas, at other educational institutions, or by other industries or employing companies are considered portable.


You can find Florida's Comprehensive Industry Certification List at http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/fcpea/pdf/1112icfl.pdf and the FLDOE funding list at http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL15-10a2.pdf.



You will sometimes hear the phrase "chunking the curriculum." Chunking involves breaking up a degree program into "chunks" of classes. Completion of each chunk earns in a competency-based certificate recognized by employers.


  Use Resource 4.1 to weigh the relative benefits and barriers associated with chunking in your setting.


Basics of Curriculum Development

There are basic rules in developing curriculum (and corresponding instruction) for AECP programs.


Curriculum and instruction should:



  Use Resource 4.2 to inventory the practices involved in delivering your current curriculum.


Your partnership will begin by identifying industry sector(s) and corresponding occupations for implementation and curriculum development. The credentials associated with these occupations are at the "heart" of that curriculum because they determine the "exit points" where adult learners will enter the workforce.


  Use Resource 4.3 to list occupations that your partnership is considering for AECP implementation and match those occupations to their associated credentials.


Many times in a partnership, there are many different training providers that provide the associated credentials within an occupation.


  Use Resource 4.4 to identify the types and titles of the credentials and which training providers issue them.


AE and ESOL Learners Entering the Course Sequence

Many times the course sequence for a given occupation has already been developed. In an AECP system, the partnerships are responsible for ensuring that targeted adult populations can access and enter those course sequences. Below are illustrations from the FLDOE of how an adult student might flow through the system.



Credit Transfer Agreements

Articulation in Florida is governed by a set of dynamic and constantly evolving, student-focused policies and practices that facilitate transition between and among education sectors. Section 1007.01, Florida Statutes, describes the intent of the Legislature to:
    facilitate articulation and seamless integration of the K-20 education system by building, and sustaining, and strengthening relationships among K-20 public organizations, between public and private organizations, and between the education system as a whole and Florida's communities. The purpose of building, sustaining, and strengthening these relationships is to provide for the efficient and effective progression and transfer of students within the education system and to allow students to proceed toward their educational objectives as rapidly as their circumstances permit.
Area of Focus
Alignment between the exit requirements of one education system and the admissions requirements of another education system into which students typically transfer
Identification of common courses, the level of courses, institutional participation in a statewide course numbering system, and the transferability of credits among such institutions
Identification of courses the meet general education or common degree program prerequisite requirements at public postsecondary educational institutions
Dual enrollment course equivalencies
Articulation agreements
For more information, please reference the Florida Statewide Articulation Manual, October 2011 (http://www.fldoe.org/


Secondary Course Code Directory

The Course Code Directory (CCD) is a comprehensive information resource consisting of a narrative section that provides general and in-depth information on applicable laws and State Board of Education rules, explanations of requirements and policies pertaining to multiple topics, and details on the K-12 course numbering system. All programs and courses funded through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) and courses or programs for which students may earn credit toward high school graduation are included in this document. The Course Code Directory may be found at http://www.fldoe.org/articulation/CCD/.


Secondary-to-Postsecondary Transition

There are two basic acceleration mechanisms in the State of Florida for accelerating transition between secondary and postsecondary: dual enrollment and credit-by-examination. Dual enrollment is defined as "the enrollment of an eligible secondary student or home education student in a postsecondary course creditable toward a career and technical certificate or an associate or baccalaureate degree" (Section 1007.271, Florida Statutes). Credit-by-examination is defined as "the program through which secondary and postsecondary students generate postsecondary credit based on the receipt of a specified minimum score on nationally standardized general or subject-area examinations." This includes advanced placement (AP) exams and International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations.


Common Placement Testing

The State Board of Education develops and implements a common placement testing program to assess the basic computation and communication skills of students who intend to enter degree programs at any institution in the State University System or Florida College System.


Students whose test results are below established cut-scores will be required to enroll in college-prep coursework. Cut-scores are as follows:

TEST Standard Score
College Placement Test
Reading Comprehension 83
Sentence Skills 83
Elementary Algebra 72
SAT-1, The College Board
Verbal 440
Mathematics 440
Enhanced ACT, American College Testing Program
Reading 18
English 17
Mathematics 19


Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (P.E.R.T): A new college placement test designed to assess Florida's Postsecondary Readiness Competencies (PRC) (reading, writing, and mathematics) is available. The P.E.R.T is designed to be a true assessment of what students need to know before enrolling in ENC 1101 or MAT 2033. The P.E.R.T is divided into three sub-tests of reading, writing, and mathematics. A diagnostic portion to identify deficiencies tied to developmental education competencies is also being developed.


Postsecondary Adult Vocation Certificate (PSAV) to Associate Degree Articulation: Emphasis is placed on career education and the articulation of programs between all sectors of education to maximize students' ability to progress from high school career education programs to postsecondary adult programs to associate degrees. There are currently over 250 local and regional articulation agreements in place allowing student with school district career education certificates to receive credit in associate degree programs. For a list of statewide PSAV to AAS/AS articulation agreements approved by the State, see http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/dwdframe/artic_frame_psav2aas.asp.


Articulation Flow Chart: The following articulation flow chart displays the standard pathways to degrees.



Source: Florida Statewide Articulation Manual (http://www.fldoe.org/articulation/pdf/statewide-postsecondary-articulation-manual.pdf)


  Use Resource 4.5 to examine each course for credit transfer possibility.


Bridge Programs

Essential Features of a Bridge Program
  • Modular curriculum

  • Connects points on a career ladder

  • Industry certification articulates with academic degrees

  • Curriculum is contextualized

  • Learning assessments are project-based

  • Specific criteria to enter and exit

  • Articulates to other bridges and to post-secondary education

  • Academic support is incorporated into lesson plans

  • Offers career counseling

  • Offers non-academic support services as part of the regular schedule
Adapted from How to Build Bridge Program That Fits into a Career Pathways: A step-by-step guide based on the Carreras en Salud Program in Chicago
Most AE learners need a "prep stage" or bridge to transition to postsecondary education or training. Bridge programs ease the transition to postsecondary education by integrating basic skills instruction (or English language instruction) with occupational skills training, and they are suitable for adults who have reading and mathematics skills at or below the tenth-grade level. Well-crafted adult education and ESOL bridge programs can reduce or even eliminate the need for developmental education because they are closely aligned with the requirements of postsecondary education. Bridge programs can be developed for students at all levels, although students at the lowest skill levels may need to take several types of bridge programs (including "pre-bridges") before they are ready for postsecondary education.


National Snapshot

Here is a national snapshot of the bridge programs represented in the 2010 BridgeConnect survey, a national survey designed to help determine the depth and breadth of bridge programs throughout the country.
  • The survey showed that bridge program participants generally have low educational skills when they enter the programs. In fact, 57 percent of the adults served by survey respondents possess educational skills below the tenth-grade level, with 19 percent below the sixth-grade level.
  • Bridge programs are structured to meet the needs of adult participants. They offer instruction at times and places convenient to working adults, offer a "learning-by-doing" format and allow students to work at their own pace.
  • Most programs are cohort-based, allowing students to progress through their classes together. The average class size is between ten and 19 students; the average program length is 20 weeks.
  • By definition, bridge programs have an industry focus. Seventy-five percent of the programs surveyed target allied health. Other occupations or industries served include administrative/office technologies, the construction trades, energy, information technology and manufacturing. (Workforce Strategy Center, Building a Higher Skilled Workforce: Results and Implications from the BridgeConnect National Survey, Nov 2010, http://www.workforcestrategy.org/images/pdfs/publications/bridge_connect_report_2010-11.pdf)
Bridge training can be built on existing educational programs that serve low-skilled adults, but these programs should be reconfigured to ensure a connection both to job advancement and to further education. Most bridge programs cannot be purchased "off the shelf" like training curricula or instructional software. Developing a bridge program is a process of adapting existing programs and services or adding new ones to enable the target population to advance to higher levels of education and employment. The particular form and content of a bridge program will depend on both the needs of the individuals to be served and the requirements of the education programs and jobs at the next level.


Source: Bridges to Careers for Low-Skilled Adults: A Program Development Guide,
Women Employed with Chicago Jobs Council and UIC Great Cities Institute, 2005 (www.womenemployed.org/docs/BridgeGuideFinal.pdf)


Designing a Bridge Program involves these steps:
  • Identify target population to be served and assess their learning and career goals and barriers to success.

  • Identify jobs and further education and training programs that would provide opportunities for advancement for the target population and map out the requirements of entry and success in those jobs and educational programs.

  • Conduct a gap analysis to determine how well existing programs or services prepare members of the target population to enter and succeed in the targeted job and education programs and highlight where individuals are "falling through the cracks."

  • Redesign existing program components and create new ones to address gaps and create "bridges" to better jobs and higher-level education and training.


  Use Resource 4.6 to identify strategies and timelines for each of the bridge program design steps.


Flowchart Examples (with Bridges)

Several flowchart examples with bridge programs for the adult learner are provided so that you can learn from promising practices from across the nation.


Examples 1A, 1B and 1C—Taken from How to Build Bridge Programs that Fit into a Career Pathway: A Step-by-Step Guide Based on the Carreras en Salud Program in Chicago (Instituto del Progreso Latino, 2010)





Example 2—Taken from Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative (http://www.arpathways.com/home.html)



Example 3—Taken from Bridges to Careers for Low-skilled Adults: A Program Development Guide, Women Employed with Chicago Jobs Council and UIC Great Cities Institute, 2005



Example 4—Owensboro Community and Technical College, taken from Achieving Ambitious Goals: Case Studies of Scaling-Up Programs for Advancing Low-Skilled Adults, May 2011


Example 5—Ohio Stackable Certificates, taken from Ohio Stackable Certificates: Models for Success, Community Research Partners, February 2008




Example 6—Olympic (Washington) College Welding Career Pathway (taken from Ohio Stackable Certificates: Models for Success, February 2008)


Example 7—Minnesota FastTrac, taken from Strengthening the Skills of Our Current Workforce: Recommendations for Increasing Credential Attainment Among Adults in Minnesota, Governor's Workforce Development Council, Sept 2010



Example 8—Wisconsin Rise Model, taken from Foster et al., Beyond Basic Skills: State Strategies to Connect Low-Skills Students to an Employer-Valued Postsecondary Education, Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, March 2011