Rigorous Tests of Student Outcomes in CTE Programs of Study

Project Overview

Principal Investigators

Marisa Castellano
Principal Investigator
Kirsten Ewart Sundell
Principal Investigator and Communications Director

This longitudinal, field-based study of programs of study (POS)/career pathways was designed using rigorous research methods to estimate the impact of POS on high school students’ academic and technical achievement outcomes through the completion of high school. Researchers are following students from the Class of 2012 in three large, urban school districts that offer POS. Each year, student outcome data are collected and site visits are conducted at treatment and control or comparison schools; the researchers observe academic and CTE classes and interview students, teachers, counselors and administrators in order to get a better sense of the experiences of students enrolled in POS in the treatment sites compared to the “default” high school experience. The study has generated large sets of qualitative and quantitative student outcome data that offer rich opportunities to estimate the impact of POS on key indicators of student success.

To date, researchers have acquired and analyzed ninth- through twelfth-grade student outcome data and site visit data. Study researchers have learned how district and school policies, practices, and cultures support the implementation of POS and promote student success in preparing for life after high school. Early study results showed a positive trend from ninth to tenth grade in favor of the treatment group, particularly on measures of student attendance and achievement on state academic assessments.

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Findings also indicate that POS offer students rigorous, engaging instruction in academic and technical content areas. This is combined with opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills to the solution of real-world problems, earn college credits, familiarize themselves with careers, and connect with local businesses and community partners. No less importantly, POS appear to be strengthened by school cultures, organizational structures, and instructional practices that emphasize academic and technical achievement, high expectations and preparation for life after high school.

Special Publications Related to the Rigorous Tests Study:

Techniques Magazine (January 2012 Programs of Study Issue)

International Journal of Educational Reform (Spring 2012 Special Issue)