Writing Career Development Standards for K-12

By Ray Henson



The major goal of writing educational career development standards is to provide educators with coherent guidelines for rigorous and relevant curriculum with outcome based expectations. It is imperative that developmentally age appropriate standards be written and adopted with performance based objectives. This process will lay the foundation for writing course frameworks, developing curriculum activities and monitoring improvement.


The Writing Phases

In this case, we will first define career development as foundational for all subsequent career planning and preparation. It encompasses the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in any selected career pathway regardless of post-secondary plans. It is the sequence of education and career related choices and transitions from kindergarten through the twelfth grade.


There are basically four phases to writing career development standards for students in grades K-12. By adhering to these sequential steps frameworks can be written for any multi-level program of study.


Anchor Standards

The first phase of writing career development standards is to determine the cumulative knowledge that a student must have at graduation to be prepared for college and career. These broad career developmental concepts include awareness and actualization of self, career awareness and exploration, education and career planning, and employment preparation in pursuit of a satisfying and fulfilling career.


These broad concepts should be written as “anchor standards” forming the basis for developmentally progressive depth of understanding that can be continually measured by performance. The following statements frame the anchor standards for grades K-12 and should be refined appropriately for each grade level course framework.


  1. Develop awareness for the world of work with personal responsibilities for self, family and community.

  2. Explore career pathways and the basic education and training requirements necessary to succeed in school and work.

  3. Develop awareness of self and personal preference necessary for achieving success;

  4. Develop research skills necessary to locate and disseminate current, accurate, and unbiased career information;

  5. Develop decision-making skills necessary for choosing a career pathway with the best fit;

  6. Develop career planning skills with a logical sequence of achievable steps for success;

  7. Master basic transferable career readiness skills in preparation for employment;

  8. Master employment preparation skills and job expectations to obtain and maintain employment;


Performance Indicators

The second phase of writing career development standards is the construction of “performance indicators” for each standard. This step allows for progression of learning within each concept at each grade level. The preceding anchor standards were divided by level of achievable comprehension for elementary, middle and high school students.


For example, “The student will identify relevant benefits to finding and working in a specific career,” is a performance indicator that can be taught, learned and assessed at the elementary level for students interviewing their parents, at the middle school level for students researching careers on the Internet and at the high school level for students job shadowing.


Performance based instruction requires outcome based objectives to achieve the desired student performance. It may require 3-5 student centered objectives to get the desired level of understanding for each indicator. This will determine the depth of understanding for each student at each grade level for each standard.


Performance Objectives

The third phase of writing career development standards is to construct the student performance objectives. These objectives will form the basis for observing or measuring the student’s understanding, ability, and/or proficiency.

Performance objectives are statements which identify the specific knowledge, skill, or attitude the learner should gain and display as a result of the training or instructional activity. This is an observable behavior that a student will do to demonstrate comprehension and mastery.

In the following example, a spreadsheet was created with a list of objectives for middle and high school students. These skill statements were divided by anchor standards then by desired outcomes. By using the table below depth of understanding could easily be achieved within this program of study encompassing multi-year progression. Three objectives were written to develop depth of understanding for each performance indicator. This produced a format for writing foundation, intermediate, and advanced level objectives for each performance indicator with progressive learning and depth of understanding.


Foundation Knowledge

Intermediate Application

Advanced Reflection

Explain how career planning to attain career goals is a lifelong process beginning by middle school.

Develop a career action plan with education and training steps to meet personal career goals.

Assess how career planning strategies facilitate reaching personal career goals


Student Activities

With career development anchor standards, performance indicators, and performance objectives in place, the fourth phase of writing state frameworks should include suggested or recommended relevant and rigorous curriculum activities.


Arkansas brought in a strong team of experienced teachers and state curriculum developers to recommend activities to teach the objectives for three separate courses—Career Development for the middle school level, Career Readiness for the 9-12 grade level and Career Preparation for the 11-12th grade students. These frameworks integrated the common core literacy standards with technology based activities.




The resulting frameworks will become working documents with state mandated standards, but will allow teachers to add and improve activities. Teachers can add columns for school required lesson plans, dates for completion, point values for projects, math integrated activities, terminology, resources, etc.





Ray HensonRay Henson, MSED, GCDFI, is a former career guidance teacher. He is currently a Program Coordinator at the Arkansas Department of Career Education and president of the Arkansas Career Development Association. He can be reached through e-mail at raymond.henson@arkansas.gov.

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