Panel: Emerging Causal Evidence on Career and Technical Education Program Impacts and Measuring the Factors That Support Their Effectiveness

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
8212 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Kate Kreamer, Advance CTE
Discussants:  Steven W. Hemelt, University of North Carolina and Corinne Alfeld, National Center for Education Research

An Early Look at the Effects of Career and Technical Education Programs in New York City
Rebecca Unterman, MDRC, James J. Kemple, New York University and Shaun Dougherty, University of Connecticut

Measuring Program Characteristics, Experiences and Quality in New York City’s Career and Technical Education System
Shaun Dougherty1, James J. Kemple2, John R. Sludden2 and Samuel Kamin1, (1)University of Connecticut, (2)New York University

Building a Framework for and Measuring Participation in Connecticut’s CTE Programs
Shaun Dougherty and Samuel Kamin, University of Connecticut

In the last five years, career and technical education (CTE) has re-taken a prominent place on the education reform stage with a wide range of aggressive policy and funding initiatives. With encouragement from the federal level, including the President (Obama, 2013), and Secretary of Education (U.S. Department of Education, 2012), a growing number of states and school districts have undertaken CTE reforms aimed at preparing students for both college and careers. Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York have been particularly ambitious in both raising academic standards and providing CTE coursework and learning experiences that are aligned with these standards. 

Changes to federal and state policy have been joined by research attempting to set the theoretical and empirical bases for the potential benefits of CTE options in high school (for an overview see Cullen, et al., 2013). Yet only a few studies can make causal claims about the impact of CTE participation (one true experiment with Career Academies, Kemple & Willner, 2008, and one quasi-experiment, Dougherty, 2018).  Even fewer students attempt to connect causal estimates of CTE impacts with evidence on programmatic characteristics and student experiences that may be moderators or mediators of CTE effects.

The studies that serve as the foundation of this panel provide an important addition to the small but evolving evidence base that can make strong causal claims when estimating the impact of CTE participation in high school. The first study focuses on New York City, which includes more than 200 CTE options for students. The second study focuses on the state of Connecticut and its system of more than 16 regional CTE high schools. Each study includes a causal impact study: a naturally occurring randomized controlled trial (RCT) in New York City and a naturally occurring regression discontinuity design (RDD) in Connecticut. Each study also includes rigorous and in-depth analysis of the design and implementation of core CTE program components and the local contexts within which they operate. The presentations will summarize preliminary findings from the impact analysis and provide an overview of the data that is available for the implementation and process analysis. Together they will afford the panel the opportunity to explore the factors that lead to impacts and discuss how these elements can be shared and applied by others. In addition, the discussion will focus on strategies and challenges that can inform the integration of impact and implementation research to address questions about the conditions under which CTE programs may be more or less effective.

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