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Grant Program: Special Topic: Career and Technical Education for Students with Disabilities
Contact: Dr. Akilah Nelson
(202) 804-7493


The Career and Technical Education (CTE) special topic supports research that contributes to the improvement of secondary and post-secondary transition outcomes for students with or at risk for disabilities in secondary school and postsecondary education.

CTE comprises training at the secondary and postsecondary levels in the academic, technical, and employment skills and knowledge required for specific occupations. Through this special topic, the Institute seeks to fund research that focuses specifically on students with or at risk for disabilities in CTE programs in Grades 6 through postsecondary education. It supports research on the policies, programs, and practices that result in increases in career readiness skills and transition outcomes from high school or postsecondary education to work settings, independent living, or further education and training.

CTE has been increasingly proposed and funded by lawmakers and education policymakers as a way to improve high school studentsí career readiness prior to graduating from high school. Students with disabilities currently participate at higher rates in CTE than students without disabilities. According to a U.S. Department of Education Report to Congress, high school graduates with disabilities were more likely to have concentrated in CTE courses than were those with no reported disabilities, 27 vs. 18 percent, respectively. Despite high levels of participation in CTE, data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012 indicate that students with disabilities continue to lag behind their peers without disabilities in post-high school education and career outcomes. Understanding these lags requires an understanding of the different types of CTE programs (e.g., occupational concentrations, modes of delivery), student participation and experience in CTE, and how these program and student factors are associated with postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. Additional issues to consider are the variations in CTE instruction, the metrics for student performance, and student academic, technical, and employment outcomes. Finally, according to a report by the Departmentís Office of Vocational and Adult Education, CTE curricula are often not aligned well with the secondary standards and postsecondary education systems or with the often changing requirements of labor markets. This is a critical gap given the purpose of CTE is to prepare students, across the continuum of education, with the knowledge and skills needed for successful employment. To address these issues, the Institute seeks to fund research on policies, programs, and practices that improve career readiness skills and transition outcomes for students in Grades 6-12 with disabilities.