From CTE Policy Watch – Start the new year off with these recent reports and research about CTE, on topics ranging from rural CTE access to a new website that hosts information on a variety of credentials to how career readiness has fared in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans.

Expanding access for rural students: States can help rural CTE students access diverse career pathways by facilitating meaningful local partnerships, encouraging the sharing of resources and funds, expanding the use of technology and supporting local innovations, according to Advance CTE’s CTE on the Frontier: Providing Learners Access to Diverse Career Pathways. The publication features examples from Nebraska, Rhode Island, Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Idaho.

CTE concentrators and postsecondary enrollment: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 82 percent of 2004 high school graduates who were CTE concentrators had enrolled in postsecondary education within eight years. In comparison, graduates who earned 3 or more credits across different CTE areas of study, sometimes known as explorers, enrolled in college at a rate of 88 percent, and graduates who earned fewer than 3 CTE credits enrolled at a rate of 92 percent. Field of study matters: Concentrators in computer and information sciences, health sciences and marketing enrolled in postsecondary education at similar rates to nonconcentrators.

Career readiness and ESSA: Forty-nine states included at least one strategy to expand career readiness in their ESSA state plans, according to Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group. Thirty-five states incorporated a career-focused measure in high school accountability systems, and 20 states identified career readiness as an explicit priority for 21st Century Community Learning Centers competitive funding under Title IV, Part B. Only two states plan to leverage the Title I direct student services set-aside to expand CTE, AP and IB pathways.

Credential Registry launches: The new Credential Registry is a centralized online source for information on credentials of all types, from degrees to badges to licenses. Users can search and compare credentials on a variety of criteria. As of December, more than 1,500 credentials from more than 170 organizations had been added. The Credential Registry is a project of Credential Engine, which will gather credentialing data on a larger scale, work with vendors to develop new applications to leverage that data and launch international outreach efforts to map the global credential landscape.

U.S. graduation rates rise: The national graduation rate increased to 84.1 percent for the class of 2016, up from 83.2 percent a year prior. In addition, differences between student sub-groups have shrunk. However, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the nation will likely fall short of the GradNation goal of a 90-percent graduation rate by 2020.

Returns to stackable credentials: Positive labor market returns to stackable credentials are modest at best, according to a new Community College Research Center working paper. Future research should explore why students stack awards and how best to combine awards for maximum value.