Panel Paper: Building a Framework for and Measuring Participation in Connecticut’s CTE Programs

Thursday, November 8, 2018
8212 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Shaun Dougherty and Samuel Kamin, University of Connecticut

Participating in career and technical education (CTE) programs during high school has been shown to give students access to rigorous academic coursework while demonstrating how core academic skills can be applied in the marketplace, thereby contributing both general and specific forms of human capital development (see Kelly & Price, 2009; Plank, De Luca, and Estacion, 2008, among others). Thus, taking CTE participation in high school may provide complementary sets of experiences that enhance academic experiences and workforce preparation of high school aged youth. Yet, despite some evidence that CTE in high school can boost wages (Kemple & Willner, 2008; Neumark & Rothstein, 2006), or increase high school completion (Dougherty, 2018; Gottfried & Plasma, 2017), there is little known about the specific experiences if high school youth in CTE that might contribute to these positive outcomes. In this paper, we present a theory of change and outline elements of the CTE experience that may mediate or moderate the relationship between CTE participation in high school and student-level outcomes.

We also present findings from a novel approach to data collection that uses mediators and moderators in a regression discontinuity evaluation of CTE impacts. Specifically, we present descriptive findings from a statewide survey of high schools, a subset of which are specialized CTE schools and are the subject of a large-scale evaluation. These data include information on course and program offerings, work-based learning experiences, postsecondary partnerships, private-sector engagement, and industry certification. Based on prior research, we hypothesize that student exposure to these program components and learning opportunities influence intermediate, short-term outcomes during high schools that include general engagement in school, achievement in both academic and CTE domains, and social and behavioral competencies.

In addition, we posit that longer-term outcomes will be influenced both directly by student experiences in CTE programs and indirectly through the influences that those experiences have on intermediate outcomes. These descriptive findings and reporting on the data collection structure and process will provide context for new approaches to understanding the mechanisms through which CTE might affect outcomes, and a foundation for more nuanced mediation analyses. This paper will also be among the first to present a formal framework to consider policy impact of CTE participation, while also forwarding a model and proof of concept for collecting such data from a state educational system. Data from this study will have direct utility to the parallel impact evaluation, which will use this study’s measures as mediators and moderators to understand heterogeneity of effects by program characteristics. In addition, this study will inform the work of policy makers and practitioners interested in better measuring and collecting important elements of CTE program implementation.