A three-year multi-state research project evaluating the effectiveness of career and technical education (CTE) policies will enter its second year poised to pursue key research questions.
Georgia State University’s CTEx laboratory is a consortium of researchers and state and local partners working to inform the future of career and technical education policy with advanced research. Celeste Carruthers of the University of Tennessee and Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University are research partners with Georgia State economist and CTEx founding director Dan Kreisman. It is housed in the new Georgia Policy Labs at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.
The researchers are working closely with state and local career and technical education directors in Michigan, Tennessee and Massachusetts—and across the Atlanta metropolitan area—to study the design and effectiveness of their programs.
“States across the country are moving ambitiously with their CTE policies,” Kreisman said, “but there’s been very little research to back up which CTE programs are effective and why. Our goal is to provide policymakers with evidence to drive their decision-making process. The first step in that process is data.”
In the lab’s first year, Kreisman and his colleagues worked with their state and local partners to develop research databases and to define key research questions. In September they will hold the first meeting bringing together the CTEx researchers and their state partners to discuss what they’ve learned and to develop a longer-term research agenda.
“The states are our partners,” Kreisman said “Their input and priorities are what drive the research agenda. We work with them to help define research questions and ultimately provide answers.
“For instance, we want to know if student demand for CTE courses responds to changes in the labor market. We’re also asking how earning industry-recognized credentials in high school affect college-going or employment later on or whether industry or teaching experiences is more important for CTE instructors. The answers may well vary by program. At the end of the day, we want to know which programs best prepare students for success, and why.”
A big part of the lab involves following students into the labor market.
“This is key,” Kreisman said. “We can’t just ask whether students do better on a test at the end of the year. These programs are meant to prepare students for the workforce as well as college. Yet, states aren’t using their data to ask whether CTE programs fill this promise or not.”
The lab is working with its state partners to bring in data that will allow them to ask these questions.
“At the end of the day,” Kreisman said, “we really don’t know how effective these programs have been. Our state partnerships and data will give us an opportunity to determine how effective these programs are for determining college and career. We can’t do this without these important state partnerships.”