Does passing a CTE technical assessment affect students’ probability of attending college?
Using data from four large metro-Atlanta school districts, Daniel Kreisman, Béla Figge, and Jesús Villero study the relationship between passing a Career and Technical Education (CTE) technical assessment and college attendance. Since CTE students who take a CTE assessment might differ in characteristics from those who do not, we compare the chances of attending college of students just above the passing threshold for an assessment with those of students just below the passing threshold. These two groups are expected to be similar, except for passing or failing the CTE exams. Among CTE students, we find that students who took a technical assessment enrolled in more CTE courses on average than students who took CTE coursework but no assessment—likely reflecting that assessments are typically given at the end of a sequence. Technical assessment-takers were less likely to be White and had lower math and English Language Arts (ELA) scores on standardized tests. We also find wide variation in correlations between technical assessments and standardized math and ELA scores and that technical assessments are more strongly correlated on average with ELA than math.
When comparing students with similar scores on either side of the passing threshold, pooling together all assessments, and controlling for student demographics, we find that passing a CTE technical assessment has no impact on the likelihood of attending college. While estimates are not precise enough to rule out potential positive or negative effects, our results suggest that (if anything) effects are more likely to be negative or zero than positive. We similarly find no impact on college-going when we restrict the analysis sample to a subset of the most popular tests (with some exceptions). For those on the margin of passing a CTE technical assessment, the signal afforded to students from passing the assessment does not appear to affect students’ propensity to attend college. That passing among this slice of students has no impact on college attendance suggests that, while the tests may be indicative of learning (a hypothesis we are not in a position to confirm), they do not seem to alter students’ future academic plans.
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