A Q&a with the Career and Technical Education Research Network

By Hughes, Katherine; Dougherty, Shaun et al. | Techniques, September 2019 | Go to article overview

A Q&a with the Career and Technical Education Research Network


Hughes, Katherine, Dougherty, Shaun, Bartlett, James, Techniques


Preface

Nearly 12 million secondary and postsecondary students in the United States were enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) in 2016-17, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (2019). This CTE programming represents a huge federal investment of more than $1.2 billion, on top of substantial state investments ("State allocations," n.d.). As interest and investments in CTE rise, however, the research is failing to keep pace.

The Career and Technical Education Research Network, a new five-year initiative from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education, seeks to remedy that problem by expanding the evidence base on the impact of CTE programs on student outcomes. In this Q&A, the network's directors, Katherine Hughes, Ph.D., a principal researcher with the American Institutes for Research, and Shaun Dougherty, Ed.D., associate professor at the Peabody College of Education & Human Development at Vanderbilt University, discussed the goals of the network and how they hope it will contribute to the field. James Bartlett, Ph.D., senior research associate with the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research and associate professor of community college leadership at North Carolina State University, guided the conversation.

James Bartlett: Kathy and Shaun, before we get into the CTE Research Network, tell me how each of you became interested in CTE research.

Katherine Hughes: After graduate school, I began working at a research institute at Columbia University that had funding to study work-based learning. There was great enthusiasm at the time about employers partnering with schools to make education more relevant, and about all the kinds of learning that could be done outside of the classroom. I observed a number of high school and community college students at their internships and came away from that project with a new realization of how work-based learning could transform young people's sense of their own capabilities. That was both moving and exciting.

Shaun Dougherty: I started as a math teacher for students who attended our local technical center for part of their school day. Then, in my role as an assistant principal, I served as a liaison to the technical center and became more familiar with the program design. I found it remarkable how engaged the students were, particularly those for whom the comprehensive high school experience seemed to be disengaging. I also liaised with the special education department and found it impressive how large a share of our students with disabilities participated in CTE--many as part of their formal transition plan. After I became a professor and began working on research in a university setting, these experiences contributed to my curiosity about the potential of CTE for addressing issues of equity of outcomes, both educational and economic.

Bartlett: Can you describe the goals of this new national research network?

Hughes: The network's primary goal is to increase the amount of rigorous research on the effectiveness of CTE programs. In addition, we hope to enlist and train more researchers in this work, in hopes they will devote their careers to the CTE field.

Bartlett: Who are the other partners in the CTE Research Network?

Hughes: In addition to the American Institutes for Research and Vanderbilt University, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and JFF (formerly Jobs for the Future) are partners in the network. ACTE has a strong role in this work; its extensive connections with practitioners across the nation are highly valuable in terms of communicating CTE research to the broad field. JFF brings a deep knowledge of the education and workforce systems, and a commitment to improving economic opportunity for all. And we have four participating research teams undertaking large-scale CTE studies. …

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