Improving Measurement in Career and Technical Education to Support Rigorous Research
Systematic measures are needed to fully capture the impact of CTE. This paper from the CTE Research Network's Definitions and Measures Workgroup catalogs the measures of CTE exposure that prior studies have used, documents measures and outcomes in more recent causal studies, and offers a framework for how to measure CTE exposure and outcomes in the future.
Abstract: Nationwide in 2013, more than half of all high school graduates (58%) earned two or more credits in a career and technical education (CTE) subject area. Among college students, more than two thirds of all undergraduate credentials (68%) were awarded in an occupational area. Yet although CTE is well subscribed, little is known about the efficacy of this programming. Most studies of CTE have not used research designs that support causal inference, relying instead on information from nationally representative or statewide datasets to estimate relationships between students’ CTE course taking and subsequent education and employment outcomes. These studies tend to associate students’ in-school experiences and postprogram results with levels of credit accumulation, but they do not account for other measures of experience that educators and policymakers argue are likely to contribute to any potential impact. As a result, the literature has failed to fully capture the effect that CTE programming has on individuals who concentrate their studies in a comprehensive, high-quality CTE program of study. Reauthorization of federal CTE legislation and increasing attention to the career preparation of youth will continue to draw attention to the field; for this reason, there is a need to strengthen the rigor of CTE research to estimate the impact of CTE exposure on students. We catalog the measures of CTE exposure used in prior studies, document measures and outcomes in more recent causal studies, and offer a framework for how to measure CTE exposure and outcomes in the future to contribute to this work.
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