Leadership Essentials

Description of Assessment & Certification

The Leadership Essentials Assessment and Certification are:
  • driven by industry standards;
  • based on relevant content standards consistent with the National Standards for Family and Consumer Sciences Education, the Career Ready Practices of the Career and Technical Common Core, the USDOE Employability Skills Framework, and the National Career Clusters Initiative;
  • appropriate to validate achievement of leadership knowledge, skills, and competencies;
  • useful in a broad range of education, organizational, and employment settings, such as secondary and post-secondary education, youth-based leadership development programs, community-based education programs, and employer-based human resource and staff development programs; and
  • advantaged to utilize a gold-standard, computer-based testing platform format that provides for valid and reliable competency measurement, and a reporting mechanism for data-driven program improvement, accountability, and individual remediation and acceleration.

Uses of Assessment & Certification

The assessment and certification are used to:
  • document exit-level achievement in rigorous secondary programs, lower division post-secondary courses, and youth/young adult leadership development programs; 
  • satisfy accountability reporting mandates required by federal legislation (Perkins) as well as state and local policies;
  • facilitate seamless articulation, placement, and credit-by exam within post-secondary institutions;
  • validate competencies required for employment at the pre-professional and/or paraprofessional level; and
  • provide an industry-recognized, pre-professional level certification. 

Assessment & Certification Resources

Alignment Matrices

* Bulletin includes detailed information on assessment design, scoring, content, sample test items, and resources)

  • Click here to access the Leadership Essentials Instructional Resource Directory  (Coming Soon!)
  • Click here for the Alignment to the 21st Century Student Outcomes (Coming Soon!)
  • Click here - Alignment to the Career Ready Practices of the Common Career Technical Core (Coming Soon!)
  • Click here - Alignment to the Employability Skills Framework (US Dept of Education) (Coming Soon!)


The Leadership Essentials assessment/certification will be at a knowledge and skill level associated with early career employment opportunities and rigorous leadership development programs that prepare individuals for life and career success. These leadership development programs are built upon the approach of helping young people acquire competencies necessary for success and to meet the increasing challenges in today’s world. The National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2018 survey overwhelmingly identified that employers are looking for candidate who are team players and problem solvers and who can plan, organize, and prioritize work. Jobs for the Future (2017) listed leadership as the top attribute sought by employers.  The knowledge and skills validate leadership skills and abilities of youth in preparation for leadership in their family, community, and careers.  The content is central to ALL career areas as a framework for career readiness.  


Once the assessment is submitted, results are immediately available to the test candidate. The results provide an overall percentage score, a breakdown of scores corresponding to domains, and the indication whether pre-professional certification was achieved. The national cut score for pre-professional certification eligibility is established annually by AAFCS. Scores can be used to demonstrate competency, pinpoint weaknesses or gaps in performance, improve programs and curricula, and demonstrate accountability to stakeholders. Through articulation agreements, scores may be used as the basis for advanced placement and/or credit-by-exam at post-secondary institutions. Thus, local and state entities have latitude for independently establishing passing or qualifying scores for other purposes.

Pre-Professional Certification Score: Click here for the list of current certification scores

Developed by National Leadership Professionals & Consultants

AAFCS engaged the assistance of a broad range of esteemed leaders, consultants, professionals and educators from across the nation to identify relevant industry standards and develop the assessment instrument. Recognizing the value of a solid assessment tool in assuring that programs are effectively preparing individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to assume roles as a leader in their community and career, the following stakeholders participated on the development panel for the assessment and certification:

  • Patty Hendrickson, Hendrickson Leadership Group, LaCrosse, WI
  • Christine Hollingsworth, Family, Career, & Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Reston, VA
  • Conrad Lucas, Capitol Resources, Charleston, WV
  • Vicki Ferrence Ray, Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), Westlake Village, CA
  • Dennis Trittin, LifeSmarts, Gig Harbor, WA
  • Doug Swanson, Division of Youth & 4-H, National Institute of Food & Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), Washington, DC
  • Wendy Wagner, Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement & Public Service - George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • Wade Weber, Kansas State University Research & Extension - Kansas 4-H, Manhattan, KS
  • Mary Ballard, Center for Faculty Excellence, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA
  • Cheryl Empey, Teacher Educator, Brigham Young University - Idaho, Rexburg, ID
  • Brenda Osman, East Central High School, St. Leon, IN
  • Robyn Sherman, Rockbridge County High School, Lexington, VA

Further Information:
Contact: AAFCS at 703-636-7641 or pre-pac@aafcs.org 

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