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icon of glasses and a book Career and Technical Education


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FY Awards

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Dr. Corinne Alfeld
(202) 245-8203



The Career and Technical Education (CTE) topic supports research to understand the implementation and effects of CTE programs and policies at the K-12 level on the education and career outcomes of students. Formerly called vocational education, CTE comprises training in the academic, technical, and employability skills and knowledge required to enter into and succeed in specific occupations. The long-term outcome of this research will be an array of tools and strategies (e.g., curricula, assessments), as well as programs (e.g. career academies, career pathways) and policies (e.g., academic credit for CTE coursework; CTE certificates or endorsements at high school graduation) that are documented to be effective for improving learning, and academic and technical attainment in CTE.

Since FY 17, the first year it was competed, NCER invested approximately $6.3 million in the CTE topic to support 4 research projects.

3 Exploration Projects
1 Efficacy Project

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) topic began as one of three Special Topics in the FY 2017 Education Research grants competition, and it was competed again as a special topic in FY 2018. It became a standing topic in FY 2019 in recognition of increasing policy interest in CTE in the United States education system.

CTE (formerly vocational education) has historically prepared students for direct entry into work after high school. However, as our economy continues to evolve and postsecondary education has become a pre-requisite for most skilled jobs, high quality high school CTE has become a launching point for a variety of postgraduate options, including further education in such fields as agricultural science, business, graphic design, health care, and engineering.

The expansion of state policy interest in K-12 CTE (ACTE, 2017) has been based on the assumption that CTE is an effective means of achieving college and career readiness among high school students. While there is some evidence to support this assumption, the Institute has established the CTE topic to better determine the nature and benefits of K-12 CTE programs. The Institute encourages researchers to examine current K-12 CTE programs, curricula, and instructional practices; students’ exposure to and experience with CTE opportunities; and the effect of participation in different types of programs on a variety of outcomes. In particular, there is a critical need for more information about the mechanisms, impacts, and costs of CTE – as well as what types of programs work best for whom under what conditions – that policymakers and education leaders can use in decision-making. In addition, the Institute invites applications to develop and validate new assessments of, as well as applications to validate existing measures of, CTE learning.


Note: The CTE topic only funds K-12 CTE research projects. Researchers interested in studying CTE for college students and returning adults should apply to the Postsecondary and Adult Education topic. Longitudinal studies with postsecondary education and employment outcomes are eligible under the CTE topic as long as students first experience the program or policy in the K-12 system.