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Career and Technical Education (CTE) | Data Management

5 Problems with CTE Data Management and How to Solve Them

February 16th, 2024 | 12 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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As an administrator, managing CTE data effectively can be challenging. After all, you’re responsible for ensuring that a wide range of information is properly collected, stored, and communicated to relevant agencies. This data is essential not only to funding and compliance but also to making critical decisions that affect the future of your students and program.  

However, you’re not alone if you find the obstacles to data management frustrating. In fact, many educators experience the same issues when dealing with student and program data.  

In this article, you’ll consider five of the most common problems associated with CTE data management: 

  1. Manual Data Entry 
  2. Difficulty Managing Spreadsheet Data 
  3. Lack of Data Transparency and Insight 
  4. Inability to Track Performance Across Multiple Schools 
  5. Your Data Is Not Focused on CTE 

When left unaddressed, these challenges can become overwhelming for administrators. But with the right solution in place, you can overcome these challenges with a data management solution tailored to your program’s needs.


1. Manual Data Entry 

CTE teachers and administrators spend countless hours on manual data entry each school year. They’ll often keep track of class attendance, grades, certifications, and other vital records in spreadsheets or even on paper, painstakingly entering each number separately. Educators will check and double-check their work, hoping that they didn’t make a mistake. 

While keeping track of student data is an important part of every educator’s work, many administrators and teachers will agree that it’s one of the least enjoyable parts of their jobs. Worse still, it comes with a high chance of error when numbers are entered incorrectly or handwritten marks are misread. This can cost educators even more time later when they need to reference gradebooks and records to verify their accuracy. 

When most of your data is managed manually, you might end up making calculations by hand and entering that information into your reports. This might even mean entering the same data multiple times! 

However, the biggest issue with manual data entry is that many teachers and administrators don’t realize how much time they are spending on these menial tasks! When you are used to entering data the same way, it’s easy to become accustomed to an inefficient process that costs your team time and leads to inaccurate data that’s difficult to find and enter when it comes time to make reports.


2. Difficulty Managing Spreadsheet Data

A second set of problems facing educators in CTE programs are the challenges that arise from dealing with spreadsheet data. While it’s common for teachers and administrators to keep track of important records in digital spreadsheets, properly dealing with spreadsheet data is often easier said than done. 

Spreadsheets can be complicated to manage for several reasons. First, using spreadsheets involves correctly setting up different fields and conditional formats to meet your needs. Although this could be straightforward for a team member who is well-versed with Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or another spreadsheet program, there’s a good chance that not every person on your faculty is equally skilled. This can make things tricky when dealing with formulas or date fields where it’s easy to turn even the best-designed spreadsheet into a confusing mess. 

Second, managing spreadsheet data can prove challenging when importing and exporting data from one document to another. There is the opportunity for information to become incorrectly formatted, obscuring important data and making analysis more difficult. When it comes time to report on your CTE program for funding and compliance, you might end up with files that are a challenge to use. 

Finally, it’s possible for different team members to have separate sets of data stored in different documents, making it more difficult to reconcile records into a single, authoritative spreadsheet. 


3. Lack of Data Transparency and Insight 

Whether or not your CTE program uses spreadsheets to track data, having multiple copies of each record stored in separate places can lead to an added challenge: there is no single master document that you can rely on for your reports and decision-making processes. 

Especially when your records are kept in various places, it’s common for CTE administrators not to have a single authoritative database that holds all the information they need to make critical program decisions. These leaders often spend more time checking and re-checking records to ensure they have the most accurate data and less time analyzing information to make decisions. This can lead to a serious lack of data transparency and insight within a CTE program. 

Without the confidence of having a single solution that manages and clearly displays all of their program data, administrators are forced to refer to multiple documents, fill in gaps and data, and even resort to guesswork to discover their greatest areas of opportunity within their CTE programs. 

When you don’t have a full picture of what is going on in your CTE program, the insight you can gain from analyzing data is limited. Programs that don’t have confidence and transparency in their data risk falling behind in expanding class offerings, applying for funding, building industry partnerships, and following state and federal educational regulations. 


4. Inability to Track Performance Across Multiple Schools

Although many problems with data management start at the school level, administrators in larger districts and CTE programs face additional challenges when tracking performance across multiple schools. While assessing each school individually and collectively is critical to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your CTE program, many administrators don’t have the structures in place to adequately track performance across multiple buildings. 

This lack of capability can arise from several different problems. Perhaps teachers and administrators at each school are using different metrics to measure success. Or maybe challenges you’ve already heard about, like manual data entry, spreadsheets, and data inaccuracy, are leading to inconsistencies in your measurements. 

Regardless, it’s up to CTE administrators at the district level to reconcile these differences so that every school in the program is properly tracking data that can be included in reports and influence the decision-making process. 

Often, the solution that works best is a single data management system that’s employed by the entire district. A data management system can keep track of data from multiple schools in the same place and ensure that each building in your program is using the same measurements to quantify success. 


5. Your Data Is Not Focused on CTE

A final problem that many career and technical education administrators face is that their program data is simply not focused on CTE. You may find it surprising that CTE programs aren’t tracking CTE-specific data, but in an education world full of systems and technologies engineered toward the general education experience, this is often the case. 

Many CTE programs use data management solutions engineered toward the traditional classroom experience. While these programs might be sufficient for tracking basic data like course grades and pass rates, they don’t show the complete picture of each student’s involvement in CTE. 

How many students are concentrators or completers? What percentage of students become involved in a career and technical student organization (CTSO)? How many learners earn certifications, and how many of these students come from a certain demographic? 

Without the answers to these questions, educators are missing important data that gives them a full picture of the lasting value of CTE for students, districts, and their communities. But with simple spreadsheets or a more generalized data management tool, it might not be possible to track all this data in a way that’s easy to reference and include in reports. The best way to solve this problem is with a CTE-specific data management solution. 

Want to learn more about why choosing a CTE-specific data management system can help you better evaluate your program? Read this article:  5 Top Reasons to Consider a CTE-Specific Data Management Solution


Solve Your CTE Data Management Problems 

Dealing with the complications of CTE data can prove challenging for many administrators. After all, you want to ensure that your reports are correct and give a full picture of the success of your CTE program. Moreover, you want to save time and gain better insight into where your program succeeds and where you can make future improvements. 

While traditional spreadsheets and databases only give you part of the story when evaluating your CTE program, the best way to solve all of your data management issues is with a CTE-specific data management solution like Eduthings. 

Eduthings integrates with your Student Information Systems (SIS) to be your CTE command center, tracking the performance of your entire program, from grades and certifications to CTSOs and advisory boards. Just as importantly, it helps you create specialized reports that are easy to analyze and understand, saving you and your team time. 

Want to learn more about Eduthings and if it could be the solution to your program’s data management problems? Discover What Is Eduthings and How Can It Help My CTE Program?

What Is Eduthings?