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Code Alignment Project

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Code Alignment Project

The Code Alignment Project's funding through the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office ended on January 1, 2019. If you are interested in engaging in code alignment work on a fee-for-service basis, contact the Code Alignment Project Director Jimi Gilroy at

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, working with the Chancellor’s Office and CTE Data Unlocked, have launched a project to support the review of codes that have been assigned to courses and awards.

What is the purpose of the project?

The Code Alignment Project is a voluntary, faculty-led process for examining the reporting codes (TOP, CIP, SOC, and SAM) that have been assigned to CTE courses and program awards, to ensure that they appropriately match the content of the curriculum. When codes are accurately assigned, colleges are better able to implement degree audit systems, can avoid inconsistencies in federal reporting, and see data that are consistent with similar programs in tools like Salary Surfer, Data Mart, and the LaunchBoard.

When can colleges participate?

Colleges can participate on a first-come, first-served basis any time before the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

What does being part of the project require?

Download a flowchart of the process.

  1. Sign a commitment form that spells out the responsibilities of participation. Download the College Commitment form here.
  2. Have at least one person from the college participate in a kick off meeting with a Code Alignment Project representative to walk through the scope and specifics of the project.
  3. After the kick-off meeting, fill in a code map document that identifies which occupational (SOC) and program (CIP, TOP, SAM) codes have been assigned to courses and awards in the target discipline--including both CTE and non-CTE courses--as well as any associated third-party credentials. Download the code mapping template by clicking on this link.
  4. Ensure that discipline faculty, curriculum committee members, deans, and researchers:
    • attend a webinar to learn about the specific requirements of the project
    • review preliminary program and job lists
    • attend a day-long in-person meeting to review program codes and their associated descriptors
    • vet any proposed changes to codes
    Download a flyer to help engage your college in code alignment.
  5. Share final recommended code changes with the CTE Data Unlocked team to inform alignment meetings in other parts of the state and updates to statewide code crosswalks.
  6. Reimburse an ASCCC-assigned Curriculum Expert plus a CTE Data Unlocked Expert for their time at and to prepare for the webinar and the face-to-face meeting (at a rate of $67/hour, plus travel costs). This can be covered using CTE Data Unlocked funds. If your college’s CTE Data Unlocked Expert has not used up their ten hours of technical assistance, remaining hours can be applied to these tasks.
  7. Reimburse the college’s part-time discipline faculty for their time on the project. This can be covered using CTE Data Unlocked funds.
  8. Have your local curriculum chair or another faculty curriculum expert agree to help one other college through the code review process. Please note the faculty curriculum expert will need to be approved by the ASCCC.

Can entire districts sign up?

This process can be implemented at the college or the district level. For districts, documentation will be done at the college level, but convenings will gather discipline faculty from similar programs at all colleges in the district in order to review codes. Each college within the district should still fill out individual College Commitment Forms and complete individual Code Maps.

How will the code review process work?

With support from experts in the curriculum approval process and labor market information, colleges will review whether the codes assigned to courses and awards match the content of the curriculum. The code descriptors that will be reviewed include:

  • Standard Occupational Codes (SOC) - federal codes addressing the types of jobs that programs target
  • Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) - federal award and course codes
  • Taxonomy of Programs (TOP) - California award and course codes
  • SAM Priority - California codes indicating course sequences

Find out more about these codes here.

Alternatively, your college can manage the process on your own, using this guide.

Creating Code Binders

Using the Code Mapping form (you can use your CTE Data Unlocked funding or technical assistance hours from your assigned CTE Data Unlocked Expert to support this task), for each program that the college wants to review:

  • Document the SOC, TOP, and CIP codes, third party credentials, and program control numbers that have been assigned to each certificate or degree within the program
  • Document the TOP, SAM, and course control numbers for required courses associated with each award within the program, including stand-alone courses associated with the program area
  • Provide information on your local process for assigning and changing codes
  • Provide a copy of your current course catalog and electronic copies of the course outlines for all courses in the program being reviewed.

WestEd and the Centers of Excellence will compile a binder for each program that includes possible SOC, CIP, TOP, and SAM code descriptors based on current assignments and codes that have been assigned by other colleges with similar programs.

See an example of a completed code binder.
See an example of a cross-program map.

Explanatory Webinar

To ensure that all parties understand the process of reviewing codes, faculty, curriculum committee members, deans, and researchers who are participating in the process will take part in an hour-long webinar, where they will learn:

  • Why it is important to ensure codes are accurately assigned
  • The types of codes that will be reviewed and where they come from
  • The process used to document current and possible codes
  • The role of discipline faculty, researchers, curriculum committee members, deans, and the local Senate in reviewing the documentation
  • Local and statewide processes for changing codes

View and listen to an example of an explanatory webinar.

Document Review

To ensure that the code binders are accurate, discipline faculty will review an initial set of documents sent by email to:

  • Verify that the correct courses are listed for specific awards
  • Ensure that all related job titles that are associated with their awards are included

Face to Face Meeting

Once the code binders are complete, the college will host a face-to-face meeting with faculty, curriculum committee members, deans, and researchers. This meeting, which will be facilitated by curriculum and data experts assigned to the college, will walk participants through the following:

  • Review SOC codes that have been designated based on the jobs that the program trains for and determine the top 3-5 codes
  • Review possible CIP codes and determine the accurate designation for each award
  • Review possible TOP codes and determine the accurate designation for each award
  • Review possible TOP codes assigned to each of the required and stand-alone courses and determine the appropriate TOP6 code
  • Examine the SAM codes assigned to each of the required and stand-alone courses and determine the accurate designation for each course
  • Review a crosswalk of related programs to see how courses and programs relate to each other, and implications for code assignments

Discipline faculty need only attend the portion of the day relevant to the subject they teach. Each subject review will take between one and two hours.

See an example of a single college code alignment agenda.
See an example of a multi-college code alignment agenda.

Finalizing Code Changes

After the meeting, the colleges will vet any proposed changes to codes with discipline faculty, with support from the curriculum committee. The colleges will determine whether and when to implement the code changes.

The college will provide a list of final recommended code changes to WestEd, who will share it with the CTE Data Unlocked Executive Committee to inform alignment meetings in other parts of the state, updates to the code crosswalks, and revisions to the codes associated with specific sectors.

Supporting Code Review at Other Colleges

To help cement learning and to build a cadre of curriculum experts who can support ongoing review processes, we ask that the Curriculum Chair at the college, or another curriculum expert at the college, help another college through the review process by helping to present the kick-off webinar and helping to facilitate the face-to-face meeting. They will be reimbursed for their time on assisting another college.

Where can I find resources about course and program codes?

  • Infographic that explains the various types of codes
  • Infographic on what to know before changing codes
  • Guide and video showing how to see which courses and awards are assigned to TOP codes
  • Guide on what to know before changing a code
  • List of TOP codes
  • List of CIP codes
  • List of SOC codes
  • Crosswalk of TOP codes to SOC codes

Where can I get additional information on the project?

Contact Kathy Booth, WestEd: