Juniors and seniors in high school who complete career and technical education (CTE) courses are more likely to graduate on time and less likely to drop of school, compared to those who don’t participate in CTE programs, according to a new study appearing in the American Educational Research Journal.
But taking such courses in 9th and 10th grade does not have the same impact on whether students graduate on time or stay in school, according to Michael A. Gottfried, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Jay Plasman, a doctoral student there. “Our findings indicate that CTE course taking, particularly when later in high school, is linked to student persistence and success,” Gottfried said in a press release, adding, “This lends support to the idea of further expansion of CTE coursework in high school.”
- The researchers used data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, which follows students from the second semester of their sophomore year though graduation and their entrance into college or the workforce — but they didn't find a connection between taking CTE courses and enrolling in college, which on one hand shows that students taking CTE courses are just as likely as students taking other courses to go to college. Though the researchers say the findings “open the conversation for further assessment of the reach of high school CTE course taking, if policy makers and school leaders wish to more effectively rely on CTE to address college-going gaps.” .
The findings support the growing attention to the role of CTE programs in preparing students for college or a career. Schools have increased such programs in recent years to give students opportunities to apply what they are learning while still in school and to give students marketable skills and even industry certifications. In Ohio, for example, Toledo students will be able to earn emergency medical technician credentials. And the Linked Learning initiative — which began in California and has now expanded to Massachusetts, Texas, Michigan and Canada — creates pathways for students that integrate academics with real-world opportunities in a variety of careers through partnerships with industries. This overlapping approach is increasingly necessary as many fields still require postsecondary education and more advanced STEM skills.
According to a report from Brookings, 125 new laws or regulations related to CTE were passed in 39 states just in 2015, and earlier this year, President Donald Trump expressed support for apprenticeships and directed federal agencies to lift regulations that might stand in the way of such programs being expanded.
Administrators can face challenges in expanding CTE programs that include addressing outdated and negative perceptions of such courses, from parents as well as teachers of core academic subjects, creating strong partnerships with industry leaders, and incorporating CTE into counseling and college advising.