Absence of conflict of interest.
Voorhees, R. A. (2018). Knowledge to work summative evaluation: Lord Fairfax Community College. Voorhees, NJ: Voorhees Group LLC.
- The study’s objective was to assess the impact of the Knowledge to Work (K2W) program on education outcomes.
- The study used a non-experimental design to compare participants in the K2W program with participants from a comparison group.
- The study found no statistically significant relationships between K2W program participation and education outcomes.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the K2W program; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Knowledge to Work (K2W) Program
Features of the Intervention
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program provided $1.9 billion in grants to community colleges to improve skills and support employment in high-demand industries, notably manufacturing, health care, information technology, energy, and transportation. Through four rounds of funding, DOL awarded 256 TAACCCT grants to approximately 800 educational institutions across the United States and its territories.
In September 2014, Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) was awarded a TAACCCT grant for its Competency-Based Education (CBE) initiative named “Knowledge to Work” (K2W). For this program, LFCC converted existing training programming in information systems technology, advanced manufacturing, and health information management to course-based CBE. The following are unique attributes of the course-based CBE initiative compared to what is offered through traditional classroom delivery: program participants are provided with wraparound services and career guidance, partners with employers for curriculum development and employment opportunities for program completers, offers competency-based degree and certificate pathways in high-growth and high-wage industries, and has a web portal and search engine that connects students and faculty to Open Education Resources (OER) that can be used to develop personalized learning plans that are linked to competencies. The combination of these services and resources are positioned to help adult students, especially those that are economically dislocated and low-skilled, complete credentials and awards that satisfy the requirements of their desired occupation. This program was a classroom-based CBE course designed to prepare students to meet regional workforce needs and included access to the services provided by the Knowledge to Work program’s course-based CBE initiative such as career guidance and the ability to create individualized learning plans.
Features of the Study
The study took place at Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) in Middletown, Virginia. The author used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who participated in the K2W program to those who did not. Individuals enrolled into the CBE-aligned CST 100 course called “Principles of Public Speaking” were included in the treatment group and students enrolled in other non-CBE-aligned sections of CST 100 courses constituted the comparison group. The comparison group received instruction in a traditional classroom setting and did not receive any supplemental resources offered by the CBE initiative. The author matched K2W participants to similar nonparticipants using propensity scores developed from demographic information. Study participants included 33 students in the treatment group and 33 students in the comparison group. Using LFCC student information data, the author compared groups on the likelihood of program completion.
Education and skills gain
- The study found no statistically significant relationship between participation in K2W and program completion.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Although the author conducted propensity score matching, he did not account for baseline degree of financial disadvantage as required in the protocol. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the K2W program—could explain the observed outcomes. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to K2W’s CBE initiative; other factors are likely to have contributed.