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Examining the Most Recent Chapter of Career and Technical Education in Oregon High Schools

By Amy Arneson | October 26, 2020

Amy Arneson
Amy Arneson is a senior quantitative researcher at Education Northwest. She works on research and evaluation projects in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; career and technical education (CTE); and postsecondary readiness.

What did secondary career and technical education (CTE) look like in Oregon from 2007/08 to 2017/18? What are the key takeaways for future CTE programming in the state—and CTE stakeholders across the country?

These two questions lie at the heart of a new REL Northwest study, which is the first to examine CTE in Oregon during the state's implementation of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV). The study is also summarized in a corresponding infographic.

Stakeholders requested the statewide retrospective landscape study to provide context and inform decisions as Oregon moves into its new state CTE plan, which will be implemented starting in 2020/21. Doing so signals the next phase of CTE under Perkins V, which was signed into law in July 2018.

The transition from Perkins IV to Perkins V in Oregon (as in all states receiving Perkins funds) involves updating the state plan, which describes the state's vision for CTE and accountability requirements for CTE programs. The plan also addresses equitable resource allocation for CTE, program quality, and the recruitment and retention of CTE educators.

The REL Northwest study specifically looked at concentrators—the group of high school students whose outcomes states must monitor under Perkins.

Under Perkins IV, a student who earned at least one CTE credit in a single secondary program was classified as a CTE concentrator. Under Perkins V, a student must now earn at least two credits to be classified as a CTE concentrator.

The study's findings are organized into three categories: offerings, participation rates, and student outcomes. They include the following:

  • CTE offerings at the secondary level, as well as high school student participation in CTE, increased from 2007/08 to 2017/18.
  • Urban high schools offered more programs (and a wider variety of programs) than rural high schools.
  • Participation and concentration disparities were apparent for gender, special education status, and English learner status. English learner students and students who qualified for special education services participated in CTE at lower rates than their peers. Overall, more male students participated in CTE than female students.
  • Concentrating in CTE and attending (or completing) college were not associated. There was no difference in college-going rates for high school graduates who concentrated in CTE and those who did not. Similarly, there was no difference in college completion rates for college enrollees who had concentrated in CTE in high school and those who had not.
  • Concentrators earned more money in their jobs six years after graduating from high school than nonconcentrators.

The study's findings underscore the need for additional research about barriers to CTE participation in Oregon—especially for English learner students and students who qualify for special education services—and further examination of where to allocate resources to increase the number and variety of CTE offerings statewide.

At a national level, the study's findings about attending and completing college are particularly encouraging, as they contradict a long-standing stereotype that CTE (formerly "vocational education") is for only non-college-bound students. Put another way, this study found that all students can benefit from participating in CTE.

REL Northwest looks forward to partnering with CTE stakeholders during Perkins V and supporting efforts to further examine CTE participation in Oregon.