NAFTrack Certification Combines School and Work

The leading career academy network is shifting from a 30 year focus on design principles to certification of career-ready knowledge and skills. Andy Rothstein, VP Programs at National Academy Foundation (NAF), said the NAFTrack Certification system combines college and career ready skills and dispositions in a comprehensive and cumulative system that combines coursework at school and workplace observations with supervisor feedback.

NAF supports 667 career-focused high school academies serving 81,000 students. Academies represent five career themes: Finance, Hospitality & Tourism, Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Sciences. (See a January feature introducing the certification program.)

Big Rapids, Michigan based NOCTI, the largest provider of career and technical certificates, was selected to administer NAFTrack Certification.

“We believe that our partnership with the NAF will result in unprecedented processes and systems that address the multiple facets of a student’s college and career readiness, while simultaneously providing transparent services to parents, educators, employers, and students,” said NOCTI CEO John Foster.

NAFTrack Certification is what a high school diploma should be–credible evidence of college and career readiness. The standards behind this program were developed by both business and education.

There are 29 project-based courses across the five career themes. Each course includes performance assessments which result in artifacts that students can add to their portfolio.

NAFTrack incorporates college credit opportunities and coursework from partners including PLTW, STEM Academy, Paxton Patterson, Cisco Networking Academy.

Initially, the NAFTrack certificate will only be available to NAF academies but Foster thinks it is highly scalable, “The concepts that underpin NAFTrack Certification can be applied to many other student groups in addition to those enrolled in NAF programs. The internship evaluation, for example, is applicable to any education program at any level, that wants to credibly account for skills applied in the workplace settings.”

Rothstein sees potential for other schools to use the certificate program in the future and to add career areas not covered by NAF.

NAFTrack Certification Internship Assessment. Internship supervisors are asked to score students on a four point scale in the following eight categories:

Collaboration & Teamwork

  • Acts and collaborates as a team member
  • Exhibits ability to work with diverse individuals
  • Interacts with supervisors, clients, and teammates appropriately


  • Demonstrates effective verbal communication
  • Constructs effective written communications
  • Listens attentively and observes work environment

Creativity & Innovation

  • Incorporates creativity and innovation into tasks

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

  • Thinks critically, formulates, and solves problems
  • Demonstrates precision and accuracy
  • Utilizes systems thinking

Information Management

  • Locates, comprehends, and evaluates information
  • Applies information technology when completing tasks

Initiative & Self Direction

  • Demonstrates flexibility and adaptability when completing tasks
  • Takes initiative, is self-directed and resourceful
  • Asks appropriate questions
  • Demonstrated awareness of own abilities and performance
  • Comprehends career opportunities/requirement in the industry or field overall
  • Understands career opportunities/requirements in the specific occupation area related to the internship or student project

Professionalism & Ethics

  • Demonstrated integrity and ethical behavior
  • Manages time effectively; punctual
  • Takes responsibility for learning; seeks to learn
  • Prioritizes tasks
  • Demonstrates persistence in completing activities
  • Brings tasks and projects to completion
  • Exhibits responsibility and professional behaviors as defined by the industry or field
  • Understands the culture, etiquette, and practices of the workplace or the project client’s organization and know how to navigate the organization

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Uses effective quantitative reasoning

In addition to this internship assessment, there is also an assessment of position specific technical skills.

While the cumulative system is focused on high school graduation, Rothstein said, “It puts students in motion, it’s not a terminal certificate.”

Companies including JP Morgan Chase, Hewlett Packard, KPMG, EMC, Juniper Networks, Xerox, Cisco, AT&T, and Verizon are excited about NAFTrack because it represents a body of transferable skills.

NAF is also working on a platform, My NAFTrack, that will also help students make the best postsecondary decisions.

There are many ways education, business, and community leaders can prepare young people for college and career. To learn more about volunteering for NAF go to

For more, check out:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.