Employability Skills Framework

Chicago Public Schools

CTE in Chicago Public Schools
Enrollment:  18,000
# of Schools:  60
# of Programs:  20 Programs
across 40 Occupations

With a high rate of students entering the workforce at graduation, Chicago Public Schools wants to ensure that its students are ready for both college AND career. Therefore, the district focused recent research efforts on employers’ needs related to employability skills. As part of these efforts, the district sought to find or create an assessment tool that could both support teachers’ instruction of employability skills and evaluate students’ readiness for internships and jobs. Specifically, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) division at Chicago Public Schools wanted a tool that could transform classrooms into 21st century skill learning centers instead of using more traditional assessment methods.

Development Process

In partnership with the Chicago Workforce Investment Council, the Chicago Public Schools conducted a comprehensive review of existing employability rubrics, standards, and assessments. This review helped to identify a common list of 16 employability skills and to understand related assessment options.

To guide this research, CPS established a set of criteria for selecting an assessment and compared existing assessments to see if they met these criteria. In particular, the district wanted teachers to be able to evaluate how students applied employability skills in different contexts rather than to simply understand their meaning. Ultimately, CPS concluded that no existing assessment met these criteria, so the district created its own rubric and process for assessing students’ employability skills.

Key Features

The assessment measures 16 skills in five categories: fundamentals, work ethic/character, problem solving, interpersonal skills, and computer literacy. Teachers, employers, or counselors rate students as meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet standards and expectations for each skill. The online format facilitates quick turnaround for data analysis and instructional improvement. To support teachers’ use of the rubric, CPS has incorporated its employability skills into curriculum and professional development offerings.

Initial Results

In the initial roll-out in 2010, 87 percent of CTE students enrolled in CPS were assessed, with 47 percent being deemed "work ready." Focus groups conducted with CTE instructors highlighted positive feedback from teachers, especially related to the rubric’s clear focus on a discrete set of skills, the relevance of these skills to jobs in all industries, the ease of administration and scoring, and the formative value of the tool.

After two years of implementation, assessment completion rates have risen to above 90 percent. Immediately after the rubric was launched, it was adopted by the district’s largest afterschool program, which serves over 20,000 youth. The tool has also evolved to a citywide initiative supported by the district and its sister agencies. For example, the assessment is now mandated by the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services for all 200 of its funded out-of-school programs. Within two years, over 100,000 students, ages 6-21, across a variety of different programs, are benefiting from the tool.

CPS administrators also acknowledge the rubric’s value to employers, especially as a tool to screen students for internships—guaranteeing to employers that interns have the necessary skills to succeed in the workplace.

For more information, see the resources available on CPS's CTE website.


“CPS CTE Employability Assessment, Developed in Partnership with Chicago Workforce Investment Council,” PowerPoint Presentation, Chicago Public Schools, Office of College and Career Preparation, 2011.