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ERIC Number: ED570132
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Apr
Pages: 48
Abstractor: ERIC
Career and Technical Education in High School: Does It Improve Student Outcomes?
Dougherty, Shaun M.
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Until the late 1990s, "vocational education" in traditional trades such as carpentry, cosmetology, and auto mechanics was often the presumptive high school placement for low-performing students considered ill-suited for college. However, in the past two decades, policymakers and educators have reconsidered what is now referred to as "Career and Technical Education" (CTE). Done right, secondary CTE provides preparation and skill building for careers in fields such as information technology, health services, and advanced manufacturing, in which many positions require a postsecondary education. While some high school CTE students do enter the workforce without additional training, many secondary CTE programs feed participants into professional certification or associate degree programs at two- or four-year colleges. The goal of today's CTE is simple: to connect students with growing industries in the American economy and to give them the skills and training required for long-term success. Unfortunately, little is known about this "new vocationalism." This study uses a rich set of data from the Arkansas Research Center (ARC) to follow three cohorts--more than 100,000 students--from eighth grade, through high school, and into college and/or the workforce. It asks: (1) Which students are taking CTE courses? Which courses--and how many of them--are they taking?; (2) Does greater exposure to CTE improve education and employment outcomes (high school graduation, college enrollment, employment status, and wages)?; and (3) Does CTE "concentration" (taking a sequence of three or more courses in an occupationally aligned "program of study") have benefits for students? Do certain students benefit more than others? This study is focused on Arkansas for several reasons. First, it is one of just five states that link education and workforce data such that questions about the efficacy of secondary CTE can be addressed. Second, it recently overhauled state policies to improve career readiness and align CTE programs with the labor market. Third, per capita income is among the lowest in the nation, and residents stand to benefit both educationally and economically from effective CTE. While no single state is truly representative of the United States as a whole, as a racially and geographically diverse state facing a number of common economic and social challenges, Arkansas can serve as a useful (and practical) test case for examining CTE. This report is organized as follows: Section One summarizes the history of secondary CTE, and reviews the scant existing research on it. Section Two describes the present study's data and methods, and also provides context specifically for Arkansas. Section Three presents the results, and Section Four considers the implications and offers recommendations for policymakers. The results suggest that policymakers and education leaders nationwide should invest more heavily (and strategically) in high school CTE. The following are appended: (1) Policy Recommendations; (2) Methodology; and (3) Supplemental Analyses & Results. [Foreword and Executive Summary written by Michael J. Petrilli and Dara Zeehandelaar.]
Thomas B. Fordham Institute. 1701 K Street NW Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-223-5452; Fax: 202-223-9226; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Numerical/Quantitative Data
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Smith Richardson Foundation; Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Identifiers - Location: Arkansas
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A
What Works Clearinghouse Reviewed: Does Not Meet Evidence Standards