Research Round-up: New Reports on Work-Based Learning Address Impacts for Learners and Institutions

December 6th, 2022

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s focus supports a vision for the future of CTE where statewide systems and institutions effectively support each learner to earn credentials that are counted, valued, and portable.

Two recent reports from JFF and New America highlight the benefits of different workforce development programs; apprenticeships and work-based learning (WBL), and the opportunity to increase equitable access to these programs for every learner.

Addressing disparities in apprenticeship participation may fast-track non-traditional learners into living wage jobs.

JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning published a report analyzing young people’s apprenticeship participation through an equity lens. The Current State of Diversity and Equity in U.S. Apprenticeships for Young People utilizes data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Database System to analyze youth apprenticeship participation from fiscal years 2010-2020. 

  • This report showed that, in total, 389,8860 young people (ages 16-24) started a Registered Apprenticeship program between 2010-2020. This rate outpaced overall youth employment. 
  • The average exit wage of $30 per hour for young people completing apprenticeships is much higher than the median wages among all young people, which suggests that work-based learning facilitates movement into well-paid jobs.
  • The data demonstrate that learners participating in apprenticeships are more likely to be white than non-white (63 percent compared to 35 percent) and more likely to be male. 

Average Hourly Exit Wage by Gender and Race/ Ethnicity for All Youth Participants in Apprenticeships, FY 2010-2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • This report identified “occupational segregation” as the explanation for the drastic differences in exit wages across lines of race and gender. For example, the data showed that the top occupation for female learners, pharmacy technician, paid $12 per hour compared with $26 per hour for the top male occupation of electrician. Similarly, these findings suggest that Black apprentices’ average exit wage of $23 (compared to $32 for Hispanic workers and $30 for white workers) is likely attributable to the large share of Black apprentices participating in heavy trucking and tractor-trailer programs, which paid $18 in exit wages. 
  • This report noted the shared benefits of increasing equitable access to workforce training programs: “When employers tap into a broader swath of talent, they often see a positive return on investment via healthier bottom lines and greater innovation, thanks to the wide range of backgrounds and experiences these apprentices bring to the job.”

Paid, postsecondary work-based learning pilot programs may be an effective tool for improving learner retention. 

New America recently published case studies of postsecondary institutions that have piloted paid work-based learning programs. This report, “What Everyone Should Know about Designing Equity-Minded Paid Work-Based Learning Opportunities for College Students” highlights the findings from case studies of emerging paid WBL program models across the country to understand the motivation, goals, and design of paid WBL opportunities available at two-year colleges. The findings include implications for state policymakers and college stakeholders in career services, academic advising, and workforce development. 

  • Paid WBL programs appear to correlate with improved learner retention strategy. Learners appear to value and engage more in paid WBL opportunities on campus or in the local community since transportation was previously an obstacle.
  • Institutions featured in these case studies funded paid WBL programs through multiple sources, from Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF), Pell grants to supplement student employment, and internal funding sources from the institution’s general operating budget.

While the learner populations across these reports vary, common themes can be drawn from the key findings of these two reports: 

  • Workforce programs benefit participants by increasing earnings and providing opportunities to gain in-demand skills, and in turn, these benefits are also enjoyed by adjacent stakeholders, including employers and postsecondary institutions.
  • Understanding learner barriers can create more equitable access for underrepresented learners in these programs.
    • Braiding funding sources can allow states to design more equitable programs and supports that facilitate young adults’ transition into competitive wage jobs.
  • States and postsecondary institutions still need support in collecting data on longitudinal workforce outcomes for those who complete work-based learning and apprenticeship programs. 

Additional Resources

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate 

ECMC’s Question the Quo Survey Reinforces Interest in Skills-Based Education Among High School Learners

October 20th, 2022

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. 

This month’s blog highlights results from the ECMC Group’s, “Question the Quo” national surveys. Conducted in partnership with Vice Media, ECMC Group launched the Question The Quo campaign to empower high school students to learn about the various postsecondary education options available and take the career path that’s right for them. This campaign supports a vision for the future of CTE where statewide systems are designed to equip learners with the knowledge they need to skillfully navigate their own career journey and utilize data to implement responsive programs.

Survey Overview

To inform this campaign, ECMC Group has conducted five national surveys to encourage teens to evaluate education beyond high school while considering cost, parental and role model influences, and societal norms. These surveys were conducted February 2020-February 2022 and polled over 5,000 teens aged 14-18. Learners were asked to share their thoughts and plans for their future education and careers amidst an ever-changing environment marked by hybrid classrooms and a rapidly changing economy.

Overall, the net survey findings uncovered that learners are focused on gaining the skills necessary to secure a job after graduation, and want more information on the avenues to do so. A majority (63 percent) of teens wish their high school provided more information about the variety of postsecondary opportunities available. A vast majority (89 percent) say higher education needs to make changes to place greater emphasis on career preparedness and exploration.

Key Finding: Career and technical education programs address learners’ desire for more skill-based education that aligns with the needs of the job market. 

Over half of survey responses indicated that learners view skills-based education programs (e.g nursing, STEM, trade skills, etc) as an intelligent choice in today’s labor market despite reporting a limited knowledge of CTE programs. Survey responses also showed a noticeable increase, 10 points from May 2020, in learners’ expressed likelihood to attend a postsecondary CTE institution. State leaders can leverage this type of learner data to rethink how they can assist learners in identifying the programs that will result in in-demand skill attainment. 

Additional results from the most recent survey in May 2022 can be found here.

Additional Resources

State leaders can capitalize on learners’ desire to build labor market skills by utilizing effective messaging to emphasize the connection to postsecondary CTE programs. Advance CTE’s report, “Communicating Career Technical Education: Learner-centered Messages for Effective Program Recruitment” provides insights on strategies for designing tailored messaging for recruiting each learner.  The accompanying message triangle serves as a guide for building effective messaging aligned with learner interests. 

State CTE leaders can find these and other resources about the strategies in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

Research Round-up: Addressing Stop-Out to Reengage Students and Increase Credit Completion 

September 27th, 2022

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s topic, Addressing Student Stop-Out, supports a vision for the future of CTE where statewide systems and supports are in place for each learner to feel welcome in, supported by and prepared to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem, and identifies some effective strategies for supporting learners to increase postsecondary retention and completion.

Defining “Stop-Out” and Learner Demographics

“Stopped out” students are those adult learners with some college experience but no credentials. 

According to a recent National Student Clearing House report, approximately 39 million individuals in the United States qualify as having Some College, but No Credentials (SCNC). Unfortunately, this often leaves learners with the debt of attending a postsecondary institution or program without any benefits from earning a credential.

Based on 2020 National Student Clearinghouse data, learners enrolled full-time achieved a retention rate of 59.5 percent and a persistence rate of 68.7 percent. Those metrics, however, were significantly lower for part-time learners, at 42.3 percent and 49.3 percent respectively.

Retention is defined in this report as the continued enrollment  (or degree completion within the same higher education institution in the fall terms of a learner’s first and second year. Persistence is defined in this report as the continued enrollment (or degree completion)  at any higher education institution– including one different from the institution of the learner’s initial enrollment– in the fall terms of their first and second year.

Who is the most vulnerable to stopping out? Data trends from the National Student Clearinghouse show that racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented among SCNC learners. Based on a subset of the 39 million SCNC students who entered college in 2013 or later, this report found that Black and Latinx SCNC students collectively made up 42.8 percent, compared to 34.3 percent of undergraduates. 

Source:  (National Student Clearinghouse 2022) 

Wraparound Services and Other Supports to Address Student Stop-Out

Persevering to Completion, a report published in collaboration with the Lumina Foundation and Higher Ed Insight (HEI), uses survey data to understand better the experiences of SCNC learners and the supports that helped them return to college.

For this study, HEI surveyed students from a cohort identified by the National Student Clearinghouse as having stopped out and then returned to college between 2013 and the end of 2018. In 2021, HEI surveyed a subgroup of these students to learn more about whether they’d completed a credential in the interim, what their reasons were for re-enrolling, and what happened when they re-enrolled. 

Among the key findings:

  • Students reenrolled for personal and professional reasons;
  • Financial barriers were significant factors for students completing their credentials; 
  • Flexible institutional supports like academic counseling, opportunities for credit transfer and a rolling admissions process had an impact on adult learners; and 
  • Key supports related to the timing and delivery of courses included the availability of online and/or hybrid courses, classes that were offered frequently, and convenient class times.

Factors that respondents identified as helping to facilitate their return to college included:

  • Proactive outreach by postsecondary institutions to their stop-outs and other adults who are researching degree programs; 
  • Messaging focused on the needs of returning adult students, particularly regarding the cost and time required to complete a credential;
  • Access to easily navigable admissions and degree program information; and 
  • Readily available assistance to answer questions and support returning students through the process of re-enrolling. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State CTE leaders can lead on this issue by taking a supporting postsecondary leaders in systemic evalutions of current supports for stopped out learners to facilitate their re-enrollment. Additional resources about the strategies to equitable support postsecondary learners can be found in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate 

Research Round-up: Perceptions of and Participation in Alternative Credentials

August 25th, 2022

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices, as well as topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s topic, Alternative Credentials, advances a vision for the future of CTE where statewide systems and supports are in place for each learner’s skills to be fully counted, valued, and portable, and highlights the potential benefits of alternative credentials for both learners and employers.

Defining Alternative Credentials 

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, alternative credentials can be loosely defined as any micro-credential, industry or professional certification, acknowledgment of apprenticeship (registered or non-registered), or badging that indicates one’s competencies and skills within a particular field. Other common characteristics of alternative credentials include: 

  • These credentials typically take less time to complete;
  • Focus on specific skills; 
  • Are stackable;
  • Are verifiable; and 
  • Are often aligned to industries and can be frequently delivered digitally.

The key takeaways from three recent reports on the perceptions and outcomes of alternative credentials suggest that skills-based hiring offers a competitive alternative to the traditional, four-year degree job requirement and benefits both employers and employees. 

Research shows a growing need to think outside of the traditional four-year degree.

Jobs for the Future (JFF) and American Student Assistance (ASA)’s white paper, “Degrees of Risk: What Gen Z and Employers Think About Education-to-Career Pathways…and  How Those Views are Changing”, illustrates the shifting perceptions of alternative credentials

  • When trying to determine their next steps after graduation, Generation Z youth are becoming increasingly wary of the cost and time to complete a traditional four-year degree. Almost 86 percent of learners today receive financial aid; the average student loan balance accumulated over four years ranges from $25,880 to $107,520. Knowing this, they are open to the idea of non-degree pathways and credentials to help build job readiness skills in order to accelerate their timelines for entering the workforce. 
  • Employers who are willing to look outside of the traditional four-year degree are looking for a certain threshold of experience (typically measured in years) to satisfy skill requirements. This could suggest that potential candidates who have completed an apprenticeship or work-based learning have an advantage over traditional college applicants who may not yet have accumulated work experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For employees, alternative credentials may have a return on investment that is competitive with the traditional degree track.

The Midwest Economic Policy Institute co-authored “Apprenticeship as a Career Development Alternative” with the University of Illinois’ Labor and Employment Relations division to examine registered apprenticeship programs in the state of Wisconsin. The report analyzes enrollment, hours worked, and wages earned by learners, to demonstrate the market value of alternative credentials when learners are considering their postsecondary options. 

  • Wages earned by workers who have achieved journey-level experience start at $67,200 annual salary, on par with annual earnings for workers with bachelor’s degrees.
  • The average construction worker who completes an apprenticeship program in Wisconsin earns 33 percent more than the average worker with an associate degree. These wages are only 3 percent less than the average worker with a bachelor’s degree and avoid incurring $27,100 in student debt, the average loan burden for graduating seniors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For employers, lowering barriers to jobs by removing burdensome degree requirements has the potential of diversifying talent pools.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published the findings of a survey sampling executives, supervisors, HR professionals, and workers to measure the frequency and perceptions of alternative credentials. A majority of executives, supervisors, and HR professionals believe that including alternative credentials in hiring decisions can actually improve overall workplace diversity. The findings show that 81 percent of executives, 71 percent of supervisors, and 59 percent of human resource professionals recognize that using alternative credentials can uncover untapped talent and make it easier for diverse candidates to obtain employment.

Credentials are popular with nontraditional groups: 

  • Older Workers: Most workers ages 50 and older funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) who seek further education earn a non-degree credential. WIOA observed a clear preference on the part of older workers for training options that are usually under one year in duration with training program completion rates ranging from 74 to 85 percent .
  • Individuals without a postsecondary degree: 58 percent of working-age adults with some college but no degree have earned nondegree credentials, while 19 percent of those with no higher education have earned nondegree credentials.
  • Veterans: For those adults without college degrees, military veterans (57 percent) are far more likely than nonveterans (35 percent) to have a certificate or certification.

Confidence in alternative credentials is growing among learners and employers, alike. CTE has long been viewed as a responsive, skills-based avenue for learners to earn alternative credentials. To move the needle on skills-based practices, CTE leaders must ensure that alternative credentials are high-quality, backed by labor market information and provide on and off ramps to allow learners to stack their credentials.

Additional discussions about skills-based hiring can be found in this webinar,  Valuing Individuals’ Career-Ready Competencies Through Skills-Based Hiring, hosted earlier this year by Advance CTE, and in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate 

CTE Research Review: Q&A with Shaun Dougherty on the Impacts of CTE Access on Learner Outcomes in Connecticut 

June 15th, 2022

This research review series features interviews with three CTE researchers— Julie Edmunds, Shaun Dougherty, and Rachel Rosen — to highlight new and relevant Career Technical Education (CTE) research topics being pursued and discuss how state CTE leaders might leverage these to make evidence-based decisions. This series is conducted in partnership with the Career and Technical Education Research Network, which is providing new CTE impact studies and strengthening the capacity of the field to conduct and use rigorous CTE research.

For the final post in this series, Advance CTE caught up with researcher Shaun Dougherty to learn more about the outcomes of his study, The Effects of Career and Technical Education: Evidence from the Connecticut Technical High School SystemThis study took place at The Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS), an independent district of choice composed of 16 high schools where all students who attend the school participate in some form of CTE. The technical high schools in this study offer between 10 and 17 programs of study compared to the two to four typically offered at traditional comprehensive high schools. These findings suggest that student participation in CTE programs can improve graduation and college enrollment rates, and labor force participation, especially for male students. These findings should be meaningful to state leaders who are interested in improving CTE data quality to improve programming and learner supports.

How do your research findings advance the CTE field’s understanding of ways to better serve learners?

My findings in Connecticut and an earlier study in Massachusetts suggest that increasing access to high-quality CTE-focused schools can improve high school graduation rates, test scores, and early workforce experiences (earnings especially). These findings suggest that ensuring access to high-quality CTE is important, especially in areas where there is high demand for it among students. In Connecticut, we show that the benefits accrue to males only, but in Massachusetts, the impacts are broader-based and larger for students who come from less financially advantaged backgrounds. 

What is also important about both of these contexts is that students are attending CTE-dedicated high schools, which is the least common form of CTE instructional delivery in the United States. Students explore multiple programs in 9th grade and then make an informed decision about what program of study to pursue for the rest of their high school experience. Within the program they choose, they then have a relatively stable set of peers and instructors, and there is alignment between content in the state graduation requirements, such as math and English Language Arts (ELA), and their technical area of study. Each of these dimensions of the experience tends not to exist in CTE delivered in comprehensive high schools or regional technical centers.

What findings would you highlight for state CTE leaders in particular?

In particular, I’d highlight the following:

  • Whole-school models of CTE may be more expensive but have been shown to have quite larger impacts on student success and so could be worth the long-term investment.
  • If whole-school models aren’t feasible, adapting some of the structures of how those schools operate in other settings could be worth pursuing.
  • Creating ways for students to explore multiple programs of study early in high school is likely to improve the experience of all students as they get more information about their interests and strengths.
  • Investing in skilled trade programs likely helps mitigate otherwise undesirable educational and social outcomes, especially for boys who struggled to be engaged in middle school. Avoiding tracking is critical, but also finding ways to engage students in ways that likely benefit them and their families and communities is critical. 

You find male students enrolled in Connecticut’s Technical High School System (CTHSS) are more likely to graduate high school and experience a notable wage increase compared to males attending traditional high schools, yet this effect is not seen among female students. What do you make of this finding? 

There are two things worth noting here:

  • Male labor force participation in the U.S.  is generally lower than females, as are their likelihoods of completing high school or entering college. Thus, there is more opportunity to have a positive impact on males than females. 
  • Males are more likely to enter traditionally male-dominated fields, such as manufacturing and construction, which are the two industries where we see the largest payoff for participating in these technical high schools. Thus, gendered patterns of program participation are related to similarly gendered patterns of employment, which are directly related to the earnings premiums we see for males. 

Can you tell me about how you were able to leverage the state’s longitudinal data system, the value that this process brought to your work, and about any limitations you encountered??

We matched the CTHSS admissions records to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s (CSDE) longitudinal data system sequentially using the following criteria: SASID, exact match on first and last name plus birth year, first initial and exact match on last name plus birth year and month, and exact match on last name plus exact birth date. The reason for the sequential match process is reporting errors in the CTHSS application file on birth dates, spelling errors and uses of nicknames in the application file that parents and/or students fill out by hand. A failure to match after applying all of these criteria leads to the observation being omitted from the sample. Our resulting match rate was 95 percent yielding a final sample of 57,658 student applications.

From the CSDE longitudinal data system, we obtained information on each student’s race, gender, free or reduced-price lunch status, English learner and special education status (i.e. presence of an IEP).

The CSDE data also provided information on short- and medium-term educational outcomes including standardized test scores prior to and during high school, attendance, and high school graduation, as well as information on college attendance drawn from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Further, through the P20Win process, students in our sample were matched to Connecticut State Department of Labor (CSDOL) data. This CSDOL match is facilitated by Department of Motor Vehicle records that contain gender, birth date, and first and last name and is matched to the CSDOL data using social security numbers. CSDOL personnel then matched the resulting data to the CSDE data using an exact match on birth date and gender and a fuzzy match algorithm on the student’s name.

Failure to match applicants in the CSDOL data may have been driven by several factors including never having a driver’s license in the state of Connecticut, name changes due to marriage or other factors, moving out of state prior to or upon the completion of high school or failure to participate in the labor market after high school perhaps due to college attendance. Our labor market data ends in the 1st quarter of 2018. Therefore, we restrict this sample to the years 2006 to 2012 so that we have a potential for at least six quarters of data on each applicant.

Without the matching to the workforce outcomes, we would be left to wonder or speculate about what happened to most students, since there is no real evidence of impact on college-going (nor should we expect it early on for students who attended schools that emphasize manufacturing and skilled trades). Thus, the linkages were critical to being able to provide policymakers with relevant, detailed answers  

The primary limitation is that we cannot see workers who moved out of state, who were employed by the federal government, who work for unreported wages, or who are independent contractors. However, our takeaway is that our findings are likely an underestimate of the benefits of CTE. 

What new questions has this work raised for you that could be applied to future research?

The two biggest questions this work has raised for me so far are:

  • First, what financial benefits will persist through middle age and beyond?
    Other work has shown that early-career benefits of CTE may decline or turn negative over a 30-year career if the jobs and skills become obsolete or workers are not able to maintain their labor force participation. The evidence that raises this concern is from much earlier periods, so following this over the long term is critical. 
  • Second, are there conditions under which females see similar, or at least positive benefits? The gendered patterns of results are both informative and distressing. For instance, Sade Bonilla (2020) found larger high school graduation benefits from CTE in California where recent expansions of CTE had focused on health services pathways, which were both in demand and disproportionately female. Relatedly, it would be important to get other measures of benefits, such as job satisfaction, flexibility, or other indirect financial benefits. For example, females are more likely to go into education. For early childhood educators, there may be an indirect financial benefit in the form of free or reduced-cost childcare for one’s own children. Further, flexibility in work schedules around children’s school schedules may also carry weight in estimating benefits. 

Visit the Learning that Works Resource Center for additional publications examining career-centered education models and Advance CTE’s 50-state report on equity in CTE early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs) released earlier this year.

The work of the CTE Research Network Lead is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education with funds provided under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act through Grant R305N180005 to the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The work of the Network member projects is supported by the Institute. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

CTE Research Review: Exploring the Impact of P-TECH Model on College and Career Readiness Outcomes in New York City

June 3rd, 2022

This research review series features interviews with three CTE researchers— Julie Edmunds, Shaun Dougherty, and Rachel Rosen — to highlight new and relevant Career Technical Education (CTE) research topics being pursued and discuss how state CTE leaders might leverage these to make evidence-based decisions. This series is conducted in partnership with the Career and Technical Education Research Network, which provide  CTE impact studies intending to strengthen the capacity of the field to conduct and use rigorous CTE research.

For the second post in this series, Advance CTE spoke with MDRC’s Rachel Rosen about the findings from her studies, Bridging of the School-to-Work Divide and the On-Ramp to College. These studies explore the impact that participation in New York City (NYC) P-TECH model schools has on improvement in learner outcomes for New York’s student’s college and career readiness. The NYC P-TECH Grades 9-14 (P-TECH 9-14) high school model involves a partnership among the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York (CUNY), and employers collaborate with the schools implementing it. The schools prepare students for both college and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by allowing them to earn an applied associate degree in addition to a high school diploma and gain relevant work-based learning experiences within a six-year timeframe. 

These studies compared the impact that attending one of NYC’s P-TECH had on the number of dual enrollment credits learners earned, and the passage rate of the state readiness Regents exam as college and career readiness metrics. Comparison groups of students for this study were created naturally through New York’s lottery admission system. Researchers were able to observe the outcomes of those who were admitted to a P-TECH and those who were offered seats in other schools. By the end of two years of high school, 42 percent of P-TECH 9-14 students had passed the English Language Arts exam compared to 25 percent of a comparison group of students enrolled in other high schools. There was also a positive impact on passing the regents math exam with 43 percent of P-TECH students passing it by the end of two years, compared with 40 percent of comparison group students.

Based on these findings, policymakers may be interested in learning more about how to leverage the P-TECH model to replicate positive outcomes for learner populations most underserved by traditional school models. 

How do your research findings on the P-TECH school model advance the CTE field’s understanding of ways to better serve learners? 

One of the important things about the P-TECH study is that it is a causal study, so we can confidently say that the results we are seeing are directly caused by students being enrolled in the P-TECH model as compared to an alternative model. The P-TECH model was developed from proven elements of other models that are also backed by rigorous evidence. These elements include early college high school models, career academies, and small schools of choice. P-TECH is a tightly aligned model where there is good coordination between secondary, postsecondary, and employers that provide a lot of cushioning for students at these critical transition points where, in other models, they might be left to their own devices.

What findings from the Bridging of the School-to-Work Divide and the On-Ramp to College studies, would you highlight for state CTE leaders in particular?

We believe that CTE leaders will be really interested in the positive impact that we’re seeing for students who are participating in P-TECH: P-TECH 9-14 students signed up for dual enrollment programs at higher rates and both attempted and earned more college credits than the comparison group students by the end of four years of high school. It is important to note that the students in the study sample intentionally had weaker academic performance in eighth grade than the overall student population enrolled in P-TECH 9-14 schools (more than 70% of them were testing below proficient in both math and English Language Arts (ELA) in 8th grade).  Another important demographic piece for leaders to consider is the impact that attending a P-TECH high school has for learners traditionally underserved by comprehensive high schools. Our sample reflects learners who identify as Black and Hispanic, and who come from neighborhoods where the median income is below the city average, and they are experiencing positive outcomes with dual enrollment and passing the Regents exam. 

Focusing on Bridging of the School-to-Work Divide, which indicates that the P-TECH model has positive impacts on students’ college and career readiness, what do you know about how specific elements of P-TECH contribute to this impact?

There are a couple of elements of the P-TECH model that we think contribute to student success and readiness for work-based learning and dual enrollment courses:

  • First, P-TECH high schools tend to front-load the required high school classes. This means that students have more room in their schedules to fit in these college coursework-level classes when they become upperclassmen (11th and 12th grade). This is an intentional piece of the model’s design, and to make sure that students are eligible, the high schools encourage them to take their math and English Regents early. Passing the Regents* is a prerequisite to dual enrolling in CUNY classes, and students can start taking the exams as early as ninth grade.  
  • Second, P-TECH schools also have an explicit focus on helping students develop soft skills that prepare them for college and careers. These include skills such as teamwork and time management. Including these skills as part of the scope and sequence of the high school curriculum gives students a leg up when it comes to preparedness for their work-based learning opportunities. 
  • Finally, a lot of schools operate summer bridge programs to work with students who are behind and need to build up their skills. This means that they can get up to speed faster when they enter 9th grade. 

Taken together, all of these elements position students for success not only in high school but in their work-based learning experiences and to dual enroll in college courses. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The Regents Examinations are New York’s statewide standardized examinations that students take to demonstrate proficiency in core high school subjects. Students are required to pass these exams to earn a Regents Diploma.

Based on the findings in both studies, your team found that P-TECH students tended to concentrate more on CTE courses than control groups, either through accumulating greater numbers of CTE credits in high school or by taking CTE-aligned courses through dual enrollment.

What factors appear to drive that trend? And are there any implications here for CTE leaders and educators? 

Yes, the P-TECH model has an explicit focus on preparing students for careers through CTE classes. The schools were set up to make these CTE classes available in high school and CTE courses were also offered at the colleges as part of the applied associate’s degrees that students can earn. 

The comparison group in this study is made up of students who applied to P-TECH, but who did not win a seat through the random admissions process. Some of those students may have ended up in other high schools across New York City that also offer CTE coursework if that was important to them. However, we’re still seeing that P-TECH students earned more CTE credits than that comparison group students, and we believe that it is due to the very tight focus on CTE in these schools.

CTE leaders should certainly consider the role that industry partners have in helping to ensure alignment across the courses students take, the associate degree coursework, and standards for the industries they represent. The industry partners had some input into which CTE classes would help students be more prepared to secure jobs within the industry, or at least if not with the industry partner itself, then the industry that the partner works in. There is a lot of communication about how to best prepare students for entering these industries.

On-Ramp to College digs into the differences in dual enrollment participation based on gender, revealing that female students enroll in college courses at higher rates than males.

Can you explain what you learned about this pattern and any insights you gained about supporting male students’ college enrollment? 

There is an interesting paradox that is frequently observed across the higher education and CTE literature where, despite being more likely to enroll and graduate than their male peers, female students experience lower levels of accrued impact from participating in CTE.

Since the P-TECH model has a combined focus on both higher education and career readiness, we wanted to see how the gender differences might play out for students in this environment. Consistently, we saw female students in both the P-TECH high schools and the comparison schools were much more likely to dual enroll than male students. This was not, however, translate into higher pass rates of the Regents exam.  While male and female students were passing the Regents at similar levels, the female students were more likely to take up the opportunity for dual enrollment than their male peers. And this pattern was held across all seven of the P-TECH schools in this study, so it seems unrelated to the program type.

In our sample, about 21 percent of students have special education designations, but within that group, almost 80 percent of these students are male. When we compared this to the general education population, we found that the male-female gap closed somewhat, but not completely. From a policy standpoint, this tells us that there is more that could be done to support students who have special education designations in dual enrollment. 

Finally, what new questions has this work raised for you that could be applied to future research?

The study is still ongoing and we are currently working on our final analysis. Generally speaking, the big open question is focused on the impacts of P-TECH on postsecondary attainment.

Other questions we’d like to explore include:

  • What are the labor market outcomes for these students? We would like to be able to follow students for a longer period to see if they are more likely to get jobs or higher levels of earnings. 
  • P-TECH models have proliferated rapidly, both across the country and internationally, but we want to know how replicable these findings are. In New York, students are able to access the rich labor market through the city’s expansive transportation system. This makes it a lot easier for them to attend classes on different campuses and their work-based learning positions. Transportation is often a huge barrier for students to take advantage of these opportunities, so we need to find a way to disentangle this factor to better understand P-TECH’s impact.
  • What does it mean to be college-ready in places that don’t have easy markers of college readiness? Finding a way to define and understand what it means to be college-ready is an important policy question.

The work of the CTE Research Network Lead is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education with funds provided under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act through Grant R305N180005 to the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The work of the Network member projects is supported by the Institute. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

Visit the Learning that Works Resource Center for additional publications examining career-centered education models and Advance CTE’s 50-state report on equity in CTE early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs) released earlier this year. 

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate 

CTE Research Review: Q&A with Julie Edmunds on The Evaluation of Career and College Promise

May 31st, 2022

This series features interviews with three researchers— Julie Edmunds, Shaun Dougherty and Rachel Rosen — to highlight new and relevant Career Technical Education (CTE) research topics being pursued and discuss how state CTE leaders might leverage these to make evidence-based decisions. This series is conducted in partnership with the Career and Technical Education Research Network,  which is providing new CTE impact studies and strengthening the capacity of the field to conduct and use rigorous CTE research.

For the first post in this series, Advance CTE conversed with researcher Julie Edmunds to learn more about the outcomes of her study, The Evaluation of Career and College Promise, that evaluates North Carolina’s CTE dual enrollment pathway. The study is based on demographic and academic achievement data for 525,000 students in grades 11 and 12 who participated in North Carolina’s Career & College Promise CTE Pathway from 2012 to 2019, and a comparison group of similar students who did not participate in it.

As state CTE leaders seek replicable, high-impact strategies to implement dual enrollment and pathways programs, Edmund’s study presents a state-level glimpse into the impact and cost-effectiveness of these programs. This ongoing evaluation includes three sub-studies that build upon existing projects funded through grants from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), two in New York City and one in North Carolina. 

How do your research findings advance our understanding of how dual enrollment can enhance the learner experience?

We know many students are taking college-level CTE courses while they are still in high school, but we know very little about who takes these courses and whether they matter for students. Our findings suggest that these courses do have positive impacts; therefore, policymakers may want to look at ways of expanding access to CTE dual enrollment to more students. 

One interesting finding is that the female students are just as likely (in some cases, more likely) to participate in CTE dual enrollment than male students, a trend that is different than most CTE programming. This does make us wonder if offering dual enrollment courses might be a way to make CTE courses more attractive to female students. 

 

What findings would you highlight for state CTE leaders in particular?

Our findings show that CTE dual enrollment pathways led to positive outcomes for students in their transition from high school to college. Students participating in dual enrollment pathways graduated from high school at rates 2 percentage points higher than their peers, and they were also 9 percentage points more likely to enroll in postsecondary education, particularly in community colleges. The results were even higher among historically marginalized students (see graphic below). To help more students realize these benefits, state leaders will want to think about putting policies in place to support dual enrollment. For example, many states cover the tuition costs of these courses, which helps ensure that access to dual enrollment is more equitable. 

What have you and your team learned about the availability and use of high-quality data on dual enrollment pathways and outcomes in North Carolina?

North Carolina has very rich student-level data (course-taking, behavior, completion, academic performance, etc.). Over the past 10 years or so, the state has been working on creating a longitudinal data system that links students from PreK to the workforce. These linkages have allowed us to look at the longer-term postsecondary impacts of participation in dual enrollment courses. In states where there is no link between education and workforce sectors, there would be no way to assess the high school and postsecondary programs. This poses particular challenges for CTE, where the outcomes are intended to make a difference in students’ experiences both during and after high school. A longitudinal identifier that follows students over time is the most crucial part of the data system.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the significance of developing a cross-sector research agenda? What commitments (e.g. staff-time, resources, etc.) are necessary for successful implementation?

Because CTE has long-term goals relative to post-high school preparedness (both career and college), a cross-sector research agenda is necessary to meaningfully answer impact questions. As I noted in the previous question, the key enabling factor is a data system that allows for the linking of students across sectors. 

CTE dual enrollment is, by its very nature, a cross-sector program where high schools and colleges need to partner to ensure effective program implementation. Our past research suggests that effective dual enrollment partnerships benefit from several key factors:
1) a willingness for each side to understand where the other is coming from; 2) a focus on meeting the needs of students, even if it involves rethinking policies; and 3) staff who understand multiple perspectives, such as those who have worked in both K-12 and higher education, and who have a specific time allotted to dedicate to the partnership.   

What new questions has this work raised for you that could be applied to future research?

I sometimes think that we end our research projects with more questions than we have answered. Here are a few that we are thinking about now: 

  1. We want to understand more about how students are using their CTE dual enrollment courses. Are students applying these credits to workforce-focused majors? Are they using these credits and any credentials they have earned in their careers?
  2. We also have some evidence that CTE dual enrollment might be moving some students away from four-year colleges and into two-year institutions. We’d like to understand more about this. Is this because students recognize that what they want to do does not require a four-year degree? Are CTE dual enrollment students more likely to see community college as a valid, and much less expensive, way to get their first two years of college? Is it shifting their aspirations in some way; if so, how? 
  3. Then, there are lots more questions about the implementation of CTE dual enrollment programs and how that implementation might differ from dual enrollment programming focused on college transfer.  

Overall, there is so little research on CTE dual enrollment that there are so many topics to consider.  

Visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Research Center for additional resources regarding dual enrollment, including a recent State of CTE report on Early Postsecondary Opportunities (EPSOs). 

The work of the CTE Research Network Lead is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education with funds provided under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act through Grant R305N180005 to the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The work of the Network member projects is supported by the Institute. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

GAO Report Highlights Strategies to Support CTE Programs and Ongoing Challenges

April 12th, 2022

On March 30th, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report reviewing Career Technical Education (CTE) programs funded by the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). Following a congressional authorization of $1.3 billion for Perkins V in fiscal year 2021, GAO conducted a series of interviews with state education officials and representatives from CTE program providers in Delaware, Georgia, Ohio and Washington, as well as additional CTE stakeholders including business representatives, in order to study service and funding strategies and challenges. 

According to the study, state officials, program providers and stakeholders reported a variety of strategies to support different learner populations in CTE:

  • Leveraging state, local and non-Perkins federal funding. To address learner needs in CTE programming, many respondents braided diverse funding sources, including state and local revenue streams, federal grants and philanthropic donations. Program providers at the secondary level were most likely to take advantage of Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants and Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, while providers at the postsecondary level frequently reported using Adult Education State Grants. 
  • Conducting needs assessments. States and providers also utilized the comprehensive local needs assessment (CLNA) process to identify learner needs and tailor CTE programs accordingly. Ohio created “equity labs” to provide resources for school districts to analyze CLNA data, which led to the discovery of English Learner underrepresentation in CTE and the subsequent hiring of an interpreter to make program information more accessible for this population.
  • Creating meaningful partnerships with business and industry. Both state officials and stakeholders illuminated the importance of engaging with industry in order to develop relevant career pathways and offer work-based learning opportunities.
  • Seeking support from state and local leadership. Stakeholders emphasized that buy-in from leaders such as governors and superintendents is often a key component for expanding and improving CTE programs. A program provider in Georgia reported that the district superintendent’s support ultimately allowed the county to transition from traditional public schools to career academies in order to promote higher graduation rates and greater student engagement.

Despite these successes, however, respondents highlighted challenges related to the delivery of CTE programs, the replication of effective models and program accessibility for learners.

Challenges for program delivery revolved around limited funding and capacity, troubles with attracting and retaining racially diverse CTE educators, and negative perceptions of CTE programs, largely due to a lack of shared knowledge on program purposes and outcomes. The report highlighted outreach activities such as reaching out to school counselors as beneficial for raising awareness of the benefits of CTE, as well as the creation of Grow-Your-Own (GYO) teacher programs to recruit underrepresented educators from the community.

State leaders and program providers also reported that it can be a struggle to replicate effective models due to insufficient data on long-term outcomes, as well as a lack of information on evidence-based strategies. These limitations, combined with funding constraints, make it hard to scale successful programs such as Washington’s I-BEST model, which provides additional support services and a team-teaching model that requires hiring two teachers per course. The state of Delaware is attempting to address data limitations by developing a postsecondary data system that connects different sources of information in order to develop a better understanding of learner needs and outcomes.

Additionally, learners experienced two major challenges in accessing high-quality CTE. First, many learners are unable to participate in work-based learning opportunities, often due to a lack of communication between schools and employers, as well as transportation barriers that make it difficult to travel to work sites. The GAO report suggests business and industry engagement as a key strategy to address these issues. Second, learners may lack support services they need to succeed, including language accommodations, child care, flexible scheduling and financial aid. Tests are a barrier to entry for many learners, and accessing financial assistance for postsecondary non-degree programs can also be difficult. The report emphasized efforts to hire translators and provide flexible online instruction as possible methods for making CTE more supportive and accessible for learner populations.

With the shared commitment to Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits) and a continual effort to meaningfully collaborate across workforce and education systems, state CTE leaders can create innovative approaches to program outreach to build support for CTE programs among diverse constituencies, as well as advocate for expanded investment in additional services and supports that allow each learner to reach career success.

Allie Pearce, Graduate Fellow

Vlog: Opportunity America on Leveraging Non-degree Programs During Workforce Development

November 17th, 2021

Opportunity America in partnership with Lumina Foundation and Wilder Research set out to explore the role of community colleges in providing job-focused education and training in their new community college study, The Indispensable Institution. Opportunity America is a Washington think tank and policy shop promoting economic mobility – work, skills, careers, ownership and entrepreneurship for poor and working Americans. 

Advance CTE’s newest video blog features Tamar Jacoby, President of Opportunity America, as we discuss the report and in particular delve into the study’s exploration of the potential of non-degree programs to serve the needs of a national workforce realignment.  

Our conversation focuses on the profile of a non-degree learner and the next steps for state leaders in greater utilization of non-degree programs, particularly in the areas of funding, data, and industry alignment.

The study reinforces that significant work ahead for the attainments of non-credit learners be fully counted by institutions in degree and non-degree pathways, as well as a high need for data infrastructure that fully documents participation in and outcomes of non-degree learners. The good news is that this study indicates non-credits learners are strongly aligned to job-focused programs, and there is great potential to strengthen and align these programs with industry as labor realignments continue. 

Gaining a better understanding of non-credit learners is critical for each learner’s skills and learning to be fully valued, counted and portable as outlined in Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits)

It is clear there is more to learn about the non-degree arena and its learners in community colleges. Visit the Opportunity America report site to view the full study and interactive data portal.

Jeran Culina, Senior Policy Associate 

High School Graduates Reassessing Postsecondary Plans During COVID-19, Prioritizing Real-World Skills and Alternate Career Pathways

November 2nd, 2021

Postsecondary enrollment has seen dramatic declines during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, particularly for learners with low incomes and learners of color. A report recently published by the Strada Education Network sheds light on the experiences of high school graduates who have delayed their postsecondary education plans in 2020 and 2021. The report builds on survey data of 1,000 recent graduates previously covered by Advance CTE, as well as 17 in-depth interviews with learners. Strada finds that while these high school graduates remain committed to continuing their education, pandemic-related disruptions have caused them to reassess their initial plans and explore alternate pathways to career success. 

Learners across the board have experienced heightened uncertainty about college affordability and traditional career pathways as the labor market destabilized as a result of the coronavirus. Some learners said they were hesitant to enroll in coursework that would likely be conducted online, and concerns about taking care of family members amidst the health risks associated with the pandemic were also prevalent reasons for delaying enrollment, particularly among Black and Latinx learners. The report highlights three major priorities of high school graduates when considering when and how to re-engage with higher education: 

  • Personalizing college and career guidance. This includes learner-focused academic and career counseling services, peer models, and opportunities for open-minded exploration of diverse pathways. One-on-one attention from counselors centered on meeting learners’ unique needs and validating their goals and experiences is a crucial form of support. Learners also expressed a desire to hear and learn from the perspectives of alumni and industry professionals who have taken diverse college and career pathways.
  • Removing financial barriers. Financial concerns became even more pressing as the pandemic introduced more uncertainties for learners’ futures. A lack of funding to pay for college was a major factor in decisions to delay enrollment, and many survey respondents were no longer certain that a college degree would meet their needs. Learners increasingly fear accumulating student loan debt, and many found it difficult to navigate the application process for scholarships that might help to cover the costs. Streamlined and accessible financial aid is key to addressing these barriers.
  • Connecting college and career, and making academics relevant to real-world interests. Learners want to be prepared for a shifting and unpredictable workforce, and flexibility and career relevance in educational programs are critical concerns. Many recognize that a degree does not necessarily guarantee career success and hope to build work-ready skills through immersive hands-on and work-based learning experiences such as apprenticeships. Others hope that additional credentials and certifications will give them an advantage in the labor market. 

These priority areas shed light on effective supports that state Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders and educational institutions can implement to promote the success of aspiring postsecondary learners disrupted by the pandemic. Financial assistance, mentoring relationships and personalized advising supports are especially powerful tools for closing the opportunity gaps that hinder the success of learners with low incomes, learners of color and first-generation college students. Despite the uncertainties of today’s labor market, recent high school graduates still believe that postsecondary educational opportunities are essential for both personal and professional development, as well as preparing for and transitioning to meaningful careers. Recognizing the future-focused resilience of these recent graduates and addressing their central areas of concern are important first steps for re-engagement in postsecondary education and career pathways.

Allie Pearce, Graduate Fellow

 

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