Career and Tech Education (CTE) Doesn’t Boost College Attendance

Career and Tech Education (CTE) is another top-down education reform that Congress has waded into, and philanthropists have funded.

Like other education reforms, it does its results do not match the hype.

Education Week reports:

Policymakers are increasingly touting CTE as a road to college, and the new paper adds to evidence that questions how solid that linkage is.

The study was published today in the American Educational Research Journal, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association. It was conducted by two scholars from the University of California at Santa Barbara: Michael A. Gottfried, an associate professor of education, and Jay S. Plasman, a doctoral student. They tracked a cohort of about 10,000 students from 2002 to 2006, starting when the students were 10th graders, and following up as they moved into their first couple of years after high school….

….They found that taking CTE courses had no effect on whether students went to college right after high school. They found only a small effect on college application, and only for students who took one or more CTE classes in 12th grade. And they found that 11th graders who took CTE were .8 of a percent more likely to attend college, and .8 of a percent more likely to go to college within two years. But that effect was absent at other grade levels.

Career-tech-ed study and college-going might not be strongly linked because CTE students learned skills in those courses than enable them to go directly into the workforce, so they are less likely to perceive a need to go to college, Gottfried and Plasman write in the paper.

Data that the two authors gathered show that students who took more CTE courses were more likely to report that they weren’t seeking a bachelor’s degree in the future, and more likely to have parents with only a high school diploma. But in an interview, Gottfried and Plasman said their findings controlled for those factors.

The authors aimed their findings at the policymaking conversation about career and tech ed, and its potential to supply the college pipeline. The lack of strong, positive links to postsecondary outcomes is noteworthy, they wrote, and suggests “the need for further assessment of the reach of high school CTE coursetaking if indeed policymakers wish to more effectively rely on CTE to address college-going gaps.”

They do note that CTE does make a positive impact on the drop-out rate which makes sense. It fills the role vocational tech played back when I was in school. If done well, it gives students an opportunity to learn employable skills before they graduate high school.

CTE and the push to make education about workforce development will evitably have a negative impact on college attendance (and college readiness).