Career and Technical Education Policy Exchange
CTEx is a multi-state policy lab dedicated to improving the quality of high school Career and Technical Education programs in the US. We work side-by-side with state and local partners to develop data-driven policy recommendations ensuring all students are ready for both college and career.
A prevailing belief amongst the policy and business community is that CTE programs will achieve a lot – provide marketable skills for non-college bound students, grow the supply of skilled technical workers demanded by the labor market, and do this effectively without sacrificing the general knowledge we expect high school students to obtain. These are worthy goals. To achieve them will require rigorous research and evaluation to test which models work, under what circumstances and for whom.
Yet to date, this does not exist in CTE. Compared with other domains in education, we know very little about whether CTE innovations are accomplishing their stated goals, nor if there are unintended consequences for student learning or postsecondary and labor market success. Like pre-K, workforce training or special education, some things work and some do not.
CTEx will provide actionable, evidence-based research directly to policymakers and practitioners. While part of our contribution will be in compiling longitudinal databases, the lab will ultimately be used as a tool to facilitate research on the causal impact of various aspects of CTE education on student success.
Key Elements and Outcomes
Establish joint research agenda
Identify key policy issues our district partners face and determine the feasibility of conducting research to address those issues.
Build research capacity
Create a longitudinal database of administrative data available to both district staff and university researchers. Enhance districts’ research capabilities by embedding graduate students in district research offices.
Carry out research
Study impacts of existing policies, carry out trials of innovative programs and evaluate the potential for scaling up.
Shared, ongoing information flow
Provide information in varying formats to a variety of stakeholders. This includes policy briefs, academic research papers, public presentations and data sharing with government partners.
Our Research Initiatives
Effects of Education on the College and Labor Market
At present, we have only a cursory understanding of how CTE students fare in the labor market even in a descriptive sense, and the near entirety of this research uses national surveys. Through our multi-agency data agreements across several states, we have the unique opportunity to study the effects of CTE course-taking on short and medium term careers.
What drives supply and demand for CTE courses?
The role of CTE in building local workforce capacity has largely been ignored, and we have little understanding of how CTE offerings by local schools respond to changes in labor market demand. We will develop a broad set of questions that rely on labor market shocks and make use of detailed observational data to ask how well CTE outputs are matched to demands of a changing workforce.
How Can We Best Measure Learning in CTE?
The past decade has ushered in a host of new accountability measures for CTE in order to satisfy federal reporting requirements. Little if any research has asked whether increased accountability has affected student outcomes.
What Makes An Effective CTE Teacher?
While we have a great deal of research on what teacher characteristics are associated with student outcomes in non-CTE courses, there is virtually no information on what CTE teacher characteristics (specifically, industry training vs. traditional teacher training) are correlated with student success in these courses. By using matched student-teacher linkages we plan to shed light on this relationship.
Effects of Industry Credentials on Schooling and Employment
The number of students earning industry-recognized credentials has exploded in recent years. These credentials are awarded based at least in part if not entirely on an End of Pathway assessments, providing a unique opportunity to test for certification effects.