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Grant Program: Special Topics: Career and Technical Education
Contact: Dr. Corinne Alfeld
(202) 245-8203

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) special topic supports research to understand the implementation and effects of CTE programs and policies at the K-12 level in order to improve the education and career outcomes of students. K-12 CTE has been evolving and expanding with new and updated career areas (e.g. mechatronics, graphic design), connections with employers and postsecondary institutions, increased emphasis on industry credentials, innovative delivery structures such as career academies and pathways, and increased funding for CTE programs at the state level. However, while CTE has been increasingly proposed as a way to improve high school students' career readiness prior to graduating from high school, there is little consensus about what it means for a student to be “career ready.”

Through this special topic, the Institute seeks to fund research that focuses on policies, programs, and practices implemented at the K-12 level that are aimed at increasing students' career readiness. Specifically, the Institute encourages research to understand the variety of CTE programs, students' exposure to and experience with CTE opportunities, what constitutes high quality CTE, and the effect of participation in different types of programs on a variety of career- and college-readiness indicators. The Institute is particularly interested in understanding what types of programs work best for whom and under what conditions.

The Institute encourages research that explores the relationships between K-12 career-focused school, program, or curricular features and student education outcomes. (Longitudinal pathways with postsecondary education and employment outcomes are eligible under this topic as long as students first experience the program or policy in the K–12 system.) Such studies could make use of existing administrative datasets from school districts, institutions of higher education, states, industries, employers, and other relevant organizations.

Research is also needed to develop and pilot new career-oriented programs or policies designed to support students' education and career outcomes. In addition, there is a need for evaluations of existing career-focused schools, programs, or policies (e.g., awarding of vocational diplomas, district use of career-readiness measures, implementation of career academy models, awarding academic credit for CTE courses, schools' offering of online career exploration tools, and CTE teacher certification requirements). The CTE research field is also in need of projects that develop or improve upon measures of students' technical, occupational, and career readiness skills. Finally, there is a need for research on CTE teacher qualifications, recruitment, training/professional development, and retention.