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Resource Roundup: Career and Technical Education

teacher and students studying on a table in classroom
Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

By Joni Wackwitz | November 16, 2020

Career and technical education (CTE) helps equip students with the academic, technical, and employability skills they need for success in their further education and careers. Through CTE programs of study, secondary and postsecondary students can explore career pathways, gain hands-on work experience and skills, and earn industry-recognized credentials.

To guide educators in implementing and strengthening CTE, these resources highlight recent changes in federal CTE guidance, the growing research base on CTE, and ways to improve equity and school culture in CTE.

Federal guidance for CTE

In this REL Southwest blog post, the director of the CTE Research Network discusses notable features of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, known as Perkins V. This legislation guides CTE and went into effect in July 2019.

The CTE Research Network, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, which also funds the RELs, is expanding the evidence base on the impact of CTE on student outcomes. Sign up for the network’s mailing list to receive updates on CTE study findings, resources, and more. 

Aligning CTE to labor markets and high-wage, in-demand occupations

Under Perkins V, CTE programs must use a data-driven process to demonstrate that offerings align to labor market needs and prepare students for high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand occupations. Several REL projects support this new requirement, including the following:

A new REL Southwest report examines the alignment of high school CTE programs in Central Texas with the region’s high-wage, in-demand career pathways. The report also describes CTE participation and outcomes for the Round Rock Independent School District (ISD). A companion video summarizing the results and implications is slated for release by early 2021.

A REL Appalachia report assesses the extent to which West Virginia high school CTE programs align with labor markets, with a focus on alignment to regional high-demand occupations that require moderate preparation. A related infographic maps West Virginia’s statewide CTE program, Simulated Workplace, to the top 5 high-demand jobs in seven regions of the state.

Impact and effectiveness of CTE, including blended and virtual CTE

Several RELs have compiled research references in response to CTE-related questions submitted to the free Ask A REL reference desk service.

CTE implementation and outcomes

CTE and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)

Virtual and blended CTE

Equity, school culture, and CTE

In this REL Appalachia blog post, staff describe their support to the West Virginia Department of Education in fielding a survey and using the results to develop a guide and strategies for strengthening school culture as part of the state CTE program, Simulated Workplace, which uses a student-led culture designed to mirror real-life work environments.

A REL Central blog post describes how three states, faced with evolving job markets, are working with REL staff to improve cross-agency data sharing and fill in gaps in CTE student-outcome data. The states intend to use the data to answer questions as to whether schools are providing equitable access to the skills students need to enter and succeed in the workforce and college.

A REL Northwest webinar offers strategies to increase access and success for underrepresented students in CTE and STEM. Dr. Ben Williams from the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity introduces a practical framework for using data to identify equity gaps and root causes as well as strategies to address them.

Expanding the research base on CTE: REL studies in progress

Check the REL Program website for updates on CTE-related studies in progress.

REL Central is working with state education agency leaders in Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota to understand the relationships between CTE course-taking and secondary and postsecondary student outcomes.

REL Central is also performing an impact study to assess the differences between the education and workforce outcomes of CTE and non-CTE students in Nebraska and South Dakota. The study is assessing outcomes at both two and five years after high school graduation.

REL Midwest is working with the departments of education in Indiana and Minnesota to look at student and high school characteristics associated with enrollment and completion of CTE courses, graduation and college enrollment rates, and postgraduate workforce outcomes.

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Author Information

Joni Wackwitz photo

Joni Wackwitz

Communications Associate | REL Southwest

jwackwitz@air.org