CTE is enjoying renewed attention in education policy and practice, however, the body of CTE research to guide decision-making is relatively small. This has become more noticeable under the requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), as districts and states are using CTE in their education plans as a way to increase the career readiness of their students. Across the country, as CTE programs and policies continue to grow, there is a critical need for high-quality, independent research on various CTE programs and practices to provide evidence-based strategies.
Last year, the National Center for Education Research (NCER) at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) introduced a new “special topic” on CTE to encourage more researchers to focus on CTE. For those not familiar, IES is the independent research, evaluation, and statistics arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Each year, we fund millions of dollars of research on a broad range of educational topics. Following the peer review process, IES awarded its first three grants in the CTE special topic in 2017:
- New York University will study the impact of New York City's Career Technical Education programs on students' career and work-related learning experiences, social and behavioral competencies, high school completion, and transitions to college and the work place;
- The Education Development Center will lead a study that compares three different ways that CTE is delivered in California—career academies, career pathways, and elective CTE courses. The researchers will examine relationships between CTE delivery mode and student outcomes; and
- A study of Florida’s CTE certification program will be conducted by Research Triangle Institute (RTI). The study will identify which high school certifications are associated with a higher likelihood of passing certification exams and whether obtaining a certification leads to better attendance, graduation rates, and postsecondary enrollment and persistence.
Last year, IES funded a CTE research project under a different topic, Improving Education Systems. In this project, the University of Connecticut is examining the impact of attending a CTE-focused high school on students' achievement, high school graduation, and college enrollment.
As these studies progress, IES will share findings with ACTE members. You can learn more about these projects and other research on the IES website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. IES hopes to continue to fill the research gap in CTE to ensure strong programs and policies in this growing area.
Corinne Alfeld, Ph.D.
Education Research Analyst
Institute of Education Sciences
U.S. Department of Education