Career & Technical Education Policy Exchange
Growth in Availability of STEM Technical Education
Can growth in the availability of STEM technical education improve equality in participation?
In the United States, high school career and technical education (CTE) is the primary source of vocational training at the secondary level, and is similar in goal if not form to vocational education and training (VET) worldwide. CTE has evolved in the past decade to place greater emphasis on programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), mirroring parallel changes in the economy. Little is known, however, about how the rise of STEM CTE programs have affected participation for students of different backgrounds, and how changes in participation interact with changes in program offerings. In this paper, we use administrative data from the state of Massachusetts to first document the expansion of CTE and STEM CTE programs over a decade. We then estimate what student-level factors are associated with participation, including gender, race, socioeconomic status, first language, and disability. We identify important variation in program participation, particularly among groups historically overrepresented in CTE, and underrepresented in STEM. Leveraging Massachusetts as a case study, we discuss implications for the STEM pipeline and other state and local contexts. Similarly, as VET programs across many nations consider who has access to what programs, lessons from Massachusetts may inform policies to ensure equitable access.
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