This needs assessment can be used to evaluate policy and practice at the state or system level. It breaks down the core elements of a high-quality career readiness data ecosystem into multiple sections and illustrates what both undefined and established practice look like.

To complete the needs assessment

  • Read through the criteria for each sub-element. Note that criteria are provided only for the low end (1 — Undefined) and high end (4 — Established) of the rubric, though it is expected that states may fall somewhere in between.
  • Choose a rating from 1 to 4 that best describes where the state falls on the criteria for that sub-element. For example, if the state scores a 4 on most of the criteria and 1 on some of the criteria, then it might make sense to choose a 3 for the overall score for that sub-element.
  • Add any additional evidence to describe why you selected this score.
  • At the end of each part, pick a summative score for the core element (this could be based on your overall assessment of the core element or an average of the scores for each sub-element).

Ratings definitions

1 (Undefined): This component is not yet defined or is just beginning to emerge; current state policy meets most of the criteria listed under 1.

2 (Building): This component has some bright spots, but there are still many improvements to be made; it meets some of the criteria under 1, but key considerations allow for more optimism.

3 (Promising): This component is fairly well developed, though there are still some improvements to be made; it meets some but not most of the criteria under 4 and is considered to be more developed than a 2.

4 (Established): This component is extremely well developed and effective, even if there are still minor adjustments to be made; it meets most or all of the criteria listed under 4.

Also note that, while the needs assessment sets a benchmark for a high-quality career readiness data ecosystem, states can take different approaches to reach the outcomes described in the theory of action. The needs assessment is not meant to be prescriptive but rather to provide a benchmark, based on consensus from experts, you can use to assess your state’s progress and identify opportunities for further action. The tool can be applied to the career readiness data ecosystem as a whole — spanning K-12, postsecondary and workforce data — or with a particular focus on one education sector.


Refer to the glossary for more details on key terms and definitions as you complete the needs assessment. 

  • Current Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
  • Part 4
  • Part 5
  • Part 6
  • Complete
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1. Data is collected consistently and accurately.

For data to be trusted, policies and protocols must be in place to ensure the consistent collection of reliable, valid and complete career readiness data. If the data is accurate and complete and if stakeholders understand what the data represents and how it will be used, public trust in the data will grow. 

A. Data is reliable and collected consistently around the state, across different career pathway programs and across institutions.

Criteria for Rating 1 (Undefined)

  • There are limited to no uniform definitions or business rules for collecting career readiness data. 
  • Career pathway participants and concentrators are identified manually at the local level and reported up to the state.
  • There is limited to no statewide guidance for collecting, validating and submitting data. 
  • There are limited to no trainings provided to local data administrators on collecting and validating data. 
  • Spreadsheets are used to collect and report data to the state. 

Criteria for Rating 4 (Established)

  • Statewide definitions and business rules are in place to describe all data elements. Business rules are changed only to improve them or align them to new legislation or policy, and data is collected consistently and in the same format across the state. 
  • Designations such as career pathway “participants,” “concentrators” and “completers” are made using automated data processes. 
  • Statewide guidelines clearly and effectively describe processes for collecting, validating and submitting data elements. 
  • Local data administrators have regular, sufficient and timely training (at least once a year) to ensure a full understanding of data rules, policies and technology. 
  • Local data administrators submit data directly to the state data system using a secure, web-based portal. 
Your Rating
B. Processes and protocols are in place to validate career readiness data.

Criteria for Rating 1 (Undefined)

  • There are limited to no processes in place to validate data at the state level. 
  • Once local practitioners and data administrators submit their data to the state, they do not see the data again until it is reported. 
  • State-led audits of career readiness data are limited in scope and reach. 

Criteria for Rating 4 (Established)

  • Automated data validation protocols are in place to flag inconsistencies and/or errors in the data at the point of submission. 
  • State data staff validate submissions using previous years’ data in addition to administrative records from partner agencies and/or vendor files. 
  • Local practitioners and data administrators are given the opportunity to review and validate data by program and by institution before it is reported publicly. 
  • State data staff conduct annual audits to review and validate locally submitted data. Audits are based on an initial risk assessment and cover between 5 percent and 25 percent of local institutions, depending on the size of the state. 
Your Rating
C. Stakeholders are aware of what the data represents, how it will be used and its limitations.

Criteria for Rating 1 (Undefined)

  • Information on business rules, definitions and protocols for collecting data is difficult to find or not publicly available. 
  • Limited to no explanation is provided when data is incomplete. 
  • Data collection is just “something we have to do to be compliant,” and stakeholders do not understand how data will be used. 
  • There is limited to no transparency about the process for changing data elements or collection processes, leading to confusion and multiple demands from different stakeholders. 

Criteria for Rating 4 (Established)

  • Business rules and definitions for career readiness data elements, along with processes and protocols for collecting and validating data, are available to the public, including online. 
  • The state describes when data is incomplete. 
  • Stakeholders understand how the data will be used, the limitations of the data, and why data is important and relevant to them. 
  • State leaders, state staff and policymakers understand processes for making changes to data collections and publicly share clear and transparent expectations for what it takes to make said changes.
Your Rating
Overall Rating