Common Core Aligned: WorkKeys

Common Core is not ‘just a set of standards’. That statement is one of the bigger lies perpetrated by the supporters of the Core. The ultimate goal is to align everything from materials to books, apps to tests and yes, the means of entry into the workforce.

Common Core, arguably, is lends itself to reinforcing the ‘cradle to grave’ tracking and funneling of your child and their potential.  As I was thinking about writing this article, I couldn’t help but make a comparison of what is happening with this kind of tracking and a book I’ve recently read,  Divergent.  Kids are placed in one of five given classes of society based on what a test tells them is their best match.  If your text doesn’t given conclusive results, you’re considered Divergent.

Are our children currently being funneled into one career or another based on often poorly designed tests?  We have multiple tests for kids across multiple grades, multiple entry tests for colleges as well. How long until it’s pared down to just a few tests? Tests aimed at becoming some kind of workforce sorting mechanism are not a thing of the future. They’re here now. Those of us standing up and pointing it out? Are we Divergent?


The following article is going to get a bit involved. There is an article I am going to refer back to. It is essential one reads and comprehends this article before reading what I have to add to it.  Please read Missouri Education Watchdog’s Public Education as Workforce Training. Is WorkKeys in Your State.

First, what is WorkKeys?
WorkKeys is developed by ACT, the college admissions testing group.  WorkKeys is described like this on their site:

“ACT WorkKeys is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce. This series of tests measures foundational and soft skills and offers specialized assessments to target institutional needs.”

ACT also does assessments. Right now, ACT has a strong commitment to Common Core assessments. Be mindful that the ACT is run and controlled by those who created and support Common Core. In 2009, ACT was given $1,445,269 by the Bill Gates Foundation for the purpose “to develop and evaluate the impact of a web-based professional development model that will be used alongside a more traditional face-to-face model to fully implement the Rigor & Readiness initiative.”

WorkKeys measures job skills, but the basis for the modeling is coming from the Department of Labor and their competency models. WorkKeys is meant to help fill a pipeline of workers; what kind of workers is never made plain by any of the documentation available on their site.

When you boil it down, WorkKeys is designed to allow employers to tell schools what skill sets they need so that they can then teach to those skills. This is job training done in our schools, on our dime and it is NOT giving a child a real education.  I can see the intent there, to help kids get jobs when they get out of school, however this kind of manipulation of the school experience is producing kids with requested skill sets. One can see the problem inherent in this.

How does WorkKeys impact North Carolina?
North Carolina is indeed a participant. Find your test site here.
North Carolina is also a Work Ready Community member.

Referring back to article one, Public Education as Workforce Training. Is WorkKeys in Your State?, Missouri Education Watchdog (MEW) has captured a radio show dealing with North Carolina and how WorkKeys is tied to STEM — or rather how WorkKeys is manipulating STEM depending on how you look at it.  The link to the interview of Mary Paramore, a WorkKeys profiler, is here.

The interview is 40 minutes long and the  MEW article has a partial transcript that hits the high notes. The net-net of it: In the interest of closing a gap in the employment sector, businesses are dictating to schools what skills they want or need and therefore what curriculum is taught. MEW has the following questions you should ask yourself after listening to that interview with the WorkKeys profiler, the last one is less a question and more of a conclusion:

Here are some questions to ask:
* Should the Chambers of Commerce and those businesses buying into the WorkKeys program be the defacto curriculum writers for public schools?
* Should curriculum be written and aligned to Common Core standards for STEM jobs that only require a 2 year degree?
*What happens to the student who does not want to stay in the area after high school and attend a competitive 4 year university?
* Will such a curriculum prepare that student who doesn’t want to enter the local work pipeline?
* What is the purpose of education?  Is it to mold human capital for businesses?

WorkKeys and NC Career Readiness Certificate (CRC)

North Carolina’s Career Readiness Certification (CRC) is designed to meet the needs of both employers and job seekers in this transitioning economy. For employers, the CRC offers a reliable means of determining whether a potential employee has the necessary literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills to be “job ready.” For job seekers, the CRC serves as a portable credential that can be more meaningful to employers than a high school degree or a resume citing experience in a different job setting.

The CRC is based upon WorkKeys, a nationally recognized, skills assessment tool developed by ACT Inc.

The majority of this preparation, training and assessment is, of course, all done by computer. Deeper details into the “Gold, Silver and Bronze” skill sets can be found here.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

According to the ACT site, there are four ways to find out what job is the right one (starting in 8th grade) in North Carolina: EXPLORE, PLAN, WORKKEYS, ACT.

According to Wake County Public Schools, WorkKeys is described as:

WorkKeys is an ACT job skills assessment tool that measures mathematical reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving techniques in work-related situations. It also measures a student’s ability to find information in a graphic and his or her general reading comprehension. All high school seniors in North Carolina who complete four sequential Career and Technical Education courses now take the WorkKeys exam. Students who meet the ACT standards earn a Career Readiness Certificate.

Raise your hand if you’re starting to get the feeling WorkKeys is meant to separate students into two and four-year degree groups? The Wake County site continues, emphasis added:

Under new state accountability requirements set by the State Board of Education, North Carolina students now take a series of tests for college and career readiness that includes EXPLORE in 8th grade, PLAN in 10th grade, ACT in 11th grade and WorkKeys in 12th grade.

Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, the state will use these test results as an indicator to gauge how well schools are preparing students for higher education, job training and future careers. More information on the ACT is available at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction website.

Apparently, NC is using the whole ACT suite of assessments. Reminder, the ACT is all about Common Core and that the stated goal of “college readiness” is defined as “prepared to enter non-selective community colleges.”  To be clear, the Common Core is designed to allow the middle 40% of 11th graders to enroll in a credit bearing course at a “non-selective college”; Non-selective meaning an institution that accepts all applicants.   Where did this stated goal of “college readiness” come from? It came from ACT:

ACT’s definition of college and career readiness
was adopted by the Common Core State Standards
Initiative, a state-led effort coordinated by the National
Governors Association and the Council of Chief State
School Officers. The Common Core State Standards
provide a consistent, clear understanding of what
students are expected to learn, so teachers and
parents know what they need to do to help them.

The reality is that states taking back their sovereignty by dumping Common Core are right back on the hook with multi-phase assessments like ACT and its various programs like EXPLORE and WorkKeys.  The SAT is also Common Core aligned courtesy of David Coleman who is now President of the College Boards and was a main architect for Common Core. The Smarter Balanced (SBAC) of which North Carolina is still a member of poses a similar problem when it comes to getting out state free of the Common Core.


About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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