Research Reports


The NRCCTE’s research focuses on issues of urgency to both the field of CTE and the nation’s higher education system, recovering economy, and evolving labor market, addressing such topics as programs of study (POS)/career pathways, curriculum integration of CTE and academic content knowledge and skills, postsecondary student retention and completion, and professional development for educators in the areas of data use for program improvement and support for alternatively certified CTE educators.

Research Reports

Secondary career-technical education (CTE) is a field in transition. It is moving from a primary focus on preparing students for entry-level employment to preparing them for continuing education and training as well as employment. The rapid pace of change in technology and the global economy has created a demand for workers who are able to learn and adapt, and CTE must prepare its students to meet these demands. Greater emphasis is being placed on assessment to improve accountability and to verify students have acquired the skills to undertake these challenges. These higher expectations come at a time when more students are taking CTE courses and fewer CTE teachers are being graduated from teacher education programs. The field has responded by recruiting more teachers from business and industry, but those who enter teaching in this way typically have had little training in pedagogy. Neither these teachers nor many of their colleagues who have entered through a traditional teacher education program are prepared to use technical skills assessment data to help students gain higher levels of competence.

This specially commissioned paper by Kevin M. Hollenbeck of the Upjohn Institute extends Hollenbeck's recent work estimating the rate of return for workforce development programs, including secondary and postsecondary CTE, in Washington state. Hollenbeck calculates ROI based on estimates of the net impact of CTE on individuals' labor market experiences and government income supports after participating in CTE/workforce development programs. This report discusses his estimation approach and presents estimates for postsecondary and secondary CTE from a recent study. Hollenbeck found that participants in CTE programs reap substantial returns--positive earnings-- with almost nil or negative costs for secondary CTE. At the postsecondary level, any associated costs (tuition, foregone earnings) are more than outweighed, even over the short-term, by the economic payoffs of participating.

This study analyzes data on over 21,500 high school graduates with a CTE concentration in Pennsylvania who completed a workplace readiness or occupation-specific assessment developed by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI). To control for student demographic characteristics and educational experiences, assessment score record data for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 academic years were merged with student-level administrative records maintained by the Bureau of Career and Technical Education, PDE. Follow-up data on graduates' post-program work experiences were obtained from a state survey administered to all CTE program graduates to ascertain their job status in the second quarter following their high school completion.

The third year of operation of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE; August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010) demonstrated the benefits of a consortium that combines research capacity with associations that represent broad constituencies of CTE educators. Our program of work includes research, dissemination, professional development, and technical assistance. A main focus of our research has been on programs of study (POS) as defined and mandated by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-270; otherwise known as Perkins IV). In Year 3, we conducted projects that examined POS from four perspectives. We also conducted research on the following topics: methods to enhance the literacy skills of CTE students; enhancement of science instruction in agricultural education; interventions to promote student success in community colleges; online occupational programs offered by community colleges; and performance on NOCTI tests and postsecondary outcomes.

This project assesses the feasibility of creating a voluntary, nationwide data dictionary that can be used to standardize the reporting of postsecondary accountability reporting requirements for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (otherwise known as Perkins IV). Variables, field codes, and programming instructions, defined in collaboration with state postsecondary data analysts, offer a framework that states can use to crosswalk data from their existing information systems into a common database format.