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Preparing for What's Next: Career and Technical Education Evidence Blast

February 14, 2019


Our Evidence Blast series provides evidence-based research, data, and resources to help practitioners and policymakers make important decisions about schools and students.

Preparing students for high-skill, high-demand, and high-wage work is a priority for families, schools, and communities across the Northwest. Career and technical education (CTE) programs provide students with the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills necessary for today's job market, contextualize academic content through real-world applications, and explore pathways that can lead to rewarding work.

For this issue of our Evidence Blast newsletter, REL Northwest's librarians searched the literature for publicly available studies and research-based resources related to CTE, including sources profiling Northwest states and a series of resources on expanding access to CTE in rural areas.

Approaches to Designing or Improving a CTE Program

Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education and Registered Apprenticeship: A Profile of Six State Systems (2016) [PDF file]
According to this report, CTE and registered apprenticeship (RA) programs have many similarities. For instance, each is structured to include classroom-based instruction and work experiences, with technical training becoming progressively more advanced to prepare individuals for career entry. This systematic review describes the programmatic, administrative, and financial policies that six states have developed to link the two kinds of programs. (Washington state is profiled in this report.)

The Necessary Components of an Effective Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program (2018) [PDF file]
According to this policy brief, state and district education leaders and policymakers should focus on the relevant characteristics of high-quality CTE programs, which include student cohorts in career-themed course sequences; rigorous, college-preparatory academics; opportunities to earn college credits and industry-recognized credentials or certificates; and work-based learning opportunities, such as internships.

A Portrait of California Career Technical Education Pathway Completers (2018) [PDF file]
This paper examines patterns of CTE pathway completion for California public high school students in two consecutive years. It uses multiple data sources on course taking, student demographics, and school characteristics.

Current Available Research on CTE

Career and Technical Education Programs in Public School Districts: 2016–17 (2018)
In 2016–17, 98 percent of public school districts offered CTE programs to high school students. This report from the National Center for Education Statistics includes information on the types of entities that provided CTE programs in districts and the barriers to offering CTE programs that districts reported.

The Effect of Career and Technical Education on Human Capital Accumulation: Causal Evidence from Massachusetts (2018)
This paper investigates the causal impact of participating in a specialized high school-based CTE delivery program on high school persistence, completion, earning professional certifications, and standardized test scores. The paper focuses on students from low-income families, a group that is overrepresented in CTE and among high school non-completers.

Hard Work and Soft Skills: The Attitudes, Abilities, and Character of Students in Career and Technical Education (2018)
Previous research has shown that students who select into CTE tracks have, on average, lower test scores than their peers. Yet that same body of research has found that, after controlling for test scores, CTE course takers have higher high school graduation rates, overall educational attainment, or earnings. This report reaches similar conclusions, implying that CTE students have an advantage in noncognitive skills that test scores fail to capture.

Vocational and Career Tech Education in American High Schools: The Value of Depth Over Breadth (2017) [PDF file]
This working paper presents a framework for high school curriculum choice and evaluates how these decisions affect college attendance, completion, and subsequent earnings. The paper finds that although vocational courses marginally deter four-year college attendance, they have no impact on graduation. Findings also suggest that the benefits of vocational coursework accrue to those who focus on depth over breadth.

Case Studies


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