Panel: Can High Schools Impart Job Market Skills? Vocational and Career Education in American High Schools: New Research on the New Voc-Tech

Thursday, November 6, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Cimarron (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Daniel Kreisman, Georgia State University
Panel Chairs:  Robert I. Lerman, The Urban Institute
Discussants:  Kevin Hollenbeck, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and Benjamin Dalton, RTI International, Inc.

Does Vocational Course-Taking Ease School-to-Work Transitions? a Dynamic Choice Model
Daniel Kreisman, Georgia State University and Kevin Stange, University of Michigan

Do High School STEM Courses Prepare Non-College-Bound Youth for Jobs in the STEM Economy?
Robert Bozick, RAND Corporation, Michael Gottfried, University of California, Santa Barbara and Sinduja V. Srinivasan, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Over the past decade career oriented course taking is second only to English among American high school students in accumulated credit hours, surpassing even mathematics. This, coupled with the fact that fewer than half of graduating seniors will obtain a college degree and increasing low-skilled employment among American youth suggest that high school graduates are ill equipped for the labor market. Yet, while a great deal of recent research analyzes the effects of vocational training in other parts of the world, very little research addresses the causes and consequences of career and vocational training in American high schools. In this panel we present a series of four papers addressing this topic directly, estimating the impact of exposure to vocational training in high school on a host of outcomes ranging from standardized test scores and high school completion, to college attendance and major, to job match and subsequent labor market outcomes. These papers ask three important and policy relevant questions: (1) What determines participation in career-oriented coursework? (2) What effects do career-tech courses have on student achievement and attainment? and, (3) Do vocational courses help prepare students for the labor market? These papers draw from rich sources of nationally representative and state longitudinal data allowing for policy relevant conclusions. The first paper utilizes detailed transcript data from the NLSY97 to determine how studentsí beliefs about their abilities affect the decision to enroll in vocational courses, exploiting variation in graduation requirements to instrument for the number of vocational courses available to students in order to estimate effects on college enrollment and earnings. Similarly, the second offering uses a nationally representative panel to estimate effects of advanced STEM coursework in high school on the likelihood of non-college bound youth obtaining employment in the STEM economy. The final two papers use state longitudinal records linked with data on employment and earnings to evaluate whether and how career-tech programs prepare students for graduation, college and the labor market. The first of these investigates how CTE programs in Massachusetts that engage in public-private partnerships promote human capital accumulation, and whether existing programs match labor market needs, especially in areas with high concentrations of individuals from low-income families. Similarly, the final paper analyzes the impact of vocational course-taking on achievement, college attendance and earnings using matched data between the Michigan Department of Education, a statewide panel of college transcripts and administrative data from five community colleges linked to wage records. Taken together, these papers provide an overview CTE program effects on college and non-college bound students by blending literatures on curriculum effects and job training. Moreover, these papers provide a diverse policy setting by drawing on collaborations between academics, research institutions and state departments of education. In light of recent changes to federal and state funding for CTE programs, such as Perkins, and the national push for a common curriculum, results from these and future studies will have important implications for the way we view high school curriculum as preparation for college or career.
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