Career and Technical Education in High School: Does It Improve Student Outcomes?

This study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, led by the University of Connecticut's Shaun M. Dougherty, uses data from Arkansas to explore whether students benefit from Career Technical Education (CTE) coursework — and, more specifically, from focused, aligned sequences of CTE courses. The study also describes the current landscape in Arkansas, including who is taking CTE courses, how many courses they’re taking, and which ones.

The study finds positive outcomes in graduation, postsecondary degree attainment and salary for CTE concentrators. Key findings include:

  • Students with greater CTE exposure are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed and earn higher wages.
  • CTE students are just as likely to pursue a four-year degree as their peers. There was little evidence of “tracking.”
  • The more CTE courses students take, the better their education and labor market outcomes. Among other positive outcomes, CTE concentrators are more likely to graduate high school by 21 percentage points when compared to otherwise similar students.
  • Though white and female students are more likely to concentrate, CTE provides the greatest boost to students who need it most – males and students from low-income families.

Fordham concludes that it's time to change the neglect and stigma against old-school “vo-tech."


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April 2016