Technical Skill Attainment and Post-Program Outcomes: An Analysis of Pennsylvania Secondary CTE Graduates

Project Overview

Principal Investigators

Sandra Staklis
Research Associate
MPR Associates, Inc.
Steve Klein
MPR Associates, Inc.

Since the mid-1990s, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has required all students concentrating in CTE programs to complete a standardized technical skill assessment at or near the end of their program. Results of technical skill assessments are used for a number of purposes, including recognizing student achievement, supporting program improvement and professional development efforts, and holding educators accountable for their students’ performance. Interest in such assessments and their use are increasing nationwide, particularly in response to the 2006 Perkins Act requirement for reporting on career and technical skill proficiencies. Research, however, has yet to fully relate technical skill levels to students’ career and college outcomes.

To address this gap in the research, this study analyzed data on over 21,500 Pennsylvania high school graduates with a CTE concentration who completed a workplace readiness or occupation-specific assessment developed by the NRCCTE’s partner NOCTI.

Results indicated that, when controlling for race/ethnicity, gender, number of advanced science and math courses passed during high school, and GPA, the odds of CTE program graduates enrolling in higher education were greater for those with the highest level of technical skill than those with the lowest level, as measured by performance on an occupation-specific assessment. Among CTE graduates who took a workplace readiness assessment, the odds of enrolling in postsecondary education among those scoring at the highest skill level were greater than those scoring at the lowest skill level. Although data on industry-recognized certifications were more limited, no statistically significant relationship was found between earning a certification and enrolling in higher education.