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Three Things You Should Know About CTE and High School Graduation

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

To be ready for life after high school, students first need to graduate. To follow are three often-cited reasons that students drop out (Johnston, J. H. (2010) Dropout Prevention: A Research Brief. Fairfield, CT: Education Partnerships, Inc.,) followed by some examples of ways that Career and Technical Education (CTE) can help prevent students from dropping out.

1.       Academic Factors
Students who receive poor grades are more likely to drop out, but CTE concentrators improved their 12th grade NAEP scores by eight points in reading and 11 in math, while students who took no CTE courses did not increase their math scores and their reading scores improved by just four points. (Department of Education, National Assessment of Vocational Education, 2004) A ratio of one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of student dropping out of high school. (Plank et al, Dropping Out of High School and the Place of Career and Technical Education, National Research Center for CTE, 2005)

2.       Occupational Aspirations
Without a clear picture of the opportunities available to them, students are at risk of dropping out. Most careers are made up of a series of jobs, each requiring higher skills and more experience than the one before. By participating in Career and Technical Education, students are exposed to, and prepared for, the first rung on their career ladder. In addition, research shows that CTE students develop problem-solving, project completion, communication, time management, critical thinking and other cross functional skills in demand by today’s employers. (Society for Human Resource Management and WSJ.com/Careers, Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce, 2008)

3.       Disengaged Students
There are many students who don’t feel connected to their school experience, perhaps even feel that there is no one there who is interested in or cares about them. A recent report (Making the Case for CTE: What the Research Shows, National Center for CTE, 2013) claims that boys, especially, are struggling. But the hands-on, project-based learning strategies that are standard in most CTE programs appeal to a wide variety of students. In addition, students who participate in Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) enjoy higher academic motivation and engagement. (Looking Inside the Black Box: The Value Added by Career and Technical Student Organizations to Students’ High School Experience, National Research Center for CTE, 2007)

Utah CTE Fact Sheet — Career and Technical Education Produces Results

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