Academic journal article AEI Paper & Studies

Who Is the Modern CTE Student? A DESCRIPTIVE PORTRAIT OF CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION STUDENTS IN TEXAS

Academic journal article AEI Paper & Studies

Who Is the Modern CTE Student? A DESCRIPTIVE PORTRAIT OF CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION STUDENTS IN TEXAS

Article excerpt

The Carl D. Perkins Act of 1984 (Perkins I) and subsequent reauthorizations of Perkins legislation directed the secretary of education to "conduct a national assessment of vocational education [NAVE] ... through independent studies and analysis" and report the findings to Congress. In its 1994 report, the NAVE independent panel noted that vocational education was increasingly composed of less academically qualified students. The report stated:

The inappropriate placement of students into vocational education is
commonly called "dumping." It is not a new practice, but seems to be
increasing--more so in area vocational schools than in others. A number
of factors contribute to "dumping." For example, as vocational
enrollments decline, schools that want to preserve vocational staff,
funding, and programs must actively recruit students to vocational
education. Special populations are often easier to recruit, in part
because regular programs are more willing to let them go. (1)

Despite declines in overall vocational education participation between 1987 and 1991, the percentage of disabled, special needs, limited English proficient, and economically disadvantaged students enrolled in vocational education increased. Roughly half of school administrators who responded to a NAVE survey rated "placing problem students into vocational education programs, regardless of appropriateness" as a moderate to serious problem in their schools. Case studies included in the report revealed systematic patterns of funneling low-achieving students to vocational schools while academic high schools actively held onto higher-performing students.

The 1994 NAVE report was honest and prescient. It foreshadowed the coming decline in vocational education, both in terms of reputation and student enrollment. This decline was accelerated by a growing body of literature highlighting that students of color and low-income students were disproportionately "tracked" into vocational programs, (2) that vocational education diverted students away from four-year universities to two-year colleges, (3) and that it decreased the likelihood that students would go to college. (4) Given the growing emphasis on college attendence and perceptions that vocational programs were inferior to more academic courses, it is no wonder that enrollment in vocational education decreased precipitously. (5)

Beginning with Perkins II and the establishment of the Tech Prep program in 1990, which funded the establishment of local consortia of school districts and postsecondary institutions that codeveloped vocational programs, two major trends have marked vocational education. The first is an increasing emphasis on designing vocational programs that prepare students for postsecondary education, rather than just the transition into the labor market. The second is a broadening of the population of students served by vocational education.

These trends culminated with the passage of Perkins IV in 2006, which symbolically rebranded vocational education to career and technical education (CTE). This rebrand was coupled with the development of the Career Clusters Framework (CCF), which helped design CTE programs of study in an even more diverse set of industry clusters and career pathways. Despite the somewhat tarnished legacy of vocational education, more recent studies of CTE suggest that, controlling for other relevant student characteristics, students who completed three or more credits in the same CTE subject (referred to as CTE concentrators) are more likely than their peers to attend postsecondary institutions today (6) and have higher odds of going to college than vocational education concentrators in the past did. (7)

Few would say that broadening the population of students served by CTE and strengthening its linkage with postsecondary education are undesirable outcomes. And yet, there is a certain irony in the reforms that have been made to CTE. …

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