In the late 1980s, Career and Technical Education (CTE) began to implement competency-based testing. Career and Technical Education first piloted tests in accounting, word processing and data processing.
In 1995, the Utah State Legislature prompted further development of the testing system when it determined that up to 20% of Career and Technical Education funding would be allocated based on student performance. Since that time, competency based testing has grown to become an integral part of Career and Technical Education curriculum, program improvement and accountability strategies.
All of the state's 41 districts and many charter schools participate in the program. Through participation, they can qualify for incentive funding based on their students' performance on the tests. The testing program continues to grow from over 53,000 tests in 1996-97 to over 242,000 tests taken in 2013-2014.
Tests are offered in all Career and Technical Education program areas including:
Over 130 tests are offered through the Skill Certificate Program. Incentives are given to districts based on performance within each Career and Technical Education program.
The primary purpose of the assessment system is to improve Career and Technical Education program curriculum and instruction through the use of incentives based on student performance. The Skill Certificate Program is also used to report vocational and technical skill attainment for the accountability system mandated in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998.
By first establishing a core set of skills identified by the state Career and Technical Education program specialists and teachers, with the support of business and industry, each of the assessments in the Skill Certificate Program is designed to find out how individual students, programs, schools and districts are performing based on a set of standards used consistently throughout the state. Districts receive an incentive based on the performance of their students on the assessments in the various program areas. In addition, students who pass the performance assessment and correctly answer eighty percent of the questions on the assessment receive a certificate that lists the standards measured by the test. While the assessment system is not a formal certification program, the certificates issued to students can be used when seeking a job or in applying for further education and training as evidence of their accomplishments.
When available, industry developed and licensure certification tests are utilized. Examples of these are cosmetology, certified nursing assistant, dental assistant or aide, Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), ProStart, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), CompTIA, Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Oracle Certified Professional (OCP), Novell and others.