States bet big on career education, but struggle to show it works

When Kim Rider and her team contact a former student, they aren’t just checking in—they’re also gathering data.

Rider oversees career and technical education in Allen Parish, a region of rural Louisiana known for pine forests and the state’s largest casino. The 4,000-student school district offers classes in agriculture and health sciences, courses in coding and welding, and internships at the hospital and the district offices.

Yet Rider can’t be sure that her program steers students toward successful careers. That’s because Louisiana, like many states, lacks a system for tracking students once they enter the workforce. To follow students’ career paths, Rider and her colleagues must ask the graduates themselves for updates.

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