Leveraging Career and Technical Education to Prepare Students for College and Career Success
Across the country, state and local leaders, postsecondary institutions, and employers are investing in career and technical education (CTE) as a critical strategy for preparing youth and adults for future education and employment opportunities. Through a purposeful combination of academic content learning and real-world experiences, CTE can develop crucial academic, technical, and employability skills for high-wage and high-demand careers.
AIR is committed to ensuring that CTE programs are informed by the most current research and evidence-based technical assistance strategies. As a national leader in CTE research, evaluation, and technical assistance, AIR is working at all levels of education to strengthen CTE policy, programs, and student outcomes.
Highlights of AIR's Work
AIR leads the CTE Research Network, a federally funded network designed to increase the evidence base on CTE, with a particular focus on causal research. The network includes six impact studies that will provide new data on the effectiveness of CTE. The Network engages stakeholders to share information, build new knowledge, and assist in strengthening CTE policies and programs to improve student outcomes.
National Evaluation of CTE under Perkins V (NECTEP)
This Congressionally-mandated evaluation is examining the implementation of the 2018 Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, known as Perkins V, which introduced some important changes in federal support for the design, administration, and measurement of CTE. Key tasks for the project include developing and fielding surveys of state and local CTE administrators, publishing an evidence review focused on career development and counseling, and analyzing extant data to describe CTE participation and student outcomes.
Improving Equity in CTE
AIR is collaborating with the Ohio Department of Education to develop professional development trainings that support participants in embedding equity practices throughout the CTE system. Key activities include designing and delivering six professional development sessions for ODE staff, two sessions for district equity ambassadors, and creating equity-focused online materials and data stories.
AIR is working with the KCTCS to develop a web-based mapping application that braids education and workforce trends with other germane social factors. The application provides a data-driven focus for cross-agency collaboration and alignment throughout Kentucky’s education to workforce continuum. In addition to building the map, project activities include developing communications to share key insights and professional development to support state and local leaders in using the map.
AIR participates in CTEx, which provides policymakers with direct and actionable evidence to inform the future of CTE in U.S. high schools. CTEx pairs academic researchers with state education decision makers to understand the impact of CTE enrollment, quality, and delivery on both individual students and the broader economy. In its first three years, CTEx impacted program development and informed policy implementation in three states.
Recent research suggests that some teacher characteristics are differentially associated with improved outcomes for students with disabilities. This project, funded by the National Center for Special Education Research at the U.S. Department of Education, explores the relationships between career and technical education teacher certification, pathways, and preservice experiences and long-term outcomes for students with disabilities.
Incorporating work-based learning into the curriculum as part of a career and technical education program may improve students’ readiness for college and careers. As part of the CTE Research Network, this study will provide the first causal evidence on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of Virtual Enterprises, a year-long course in which students run a virtual firm.
- Recruiting Special Populations into Career-Technical Education is a toolkit produced by AIR for the Ohio Department of Education to assist state CTE staff in recruiting special student populations into CTE programs that focus on high-wage and in-demand fields. In addition to describing student recruitment strategies, the toolkit explores the policy levers districts and schools can use to support more equitable recruitment practices and improve access and opportunities to CTE programs for all students.
- Equity Framework for Career and Technical Education Research illustrates how researchers can infuse an equity approach into research from start to finish and provides real and hypothetical examples from CTE research.
- What Factors Determine Equity and Access in CTE Participation? This resource uses administrative data from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Washington and Atlanta to examine the factors that influence equity and access in CTE participation.
- Indiana and Minnesota Students Who Focused on Career and Technical Education in High School: Who Are They, and What Are Their College and Employment Outcomes? Authors examine whether high school graduates who were CTE concentrators had different college and workforce outcomes from graduates who were not concentrators.
- Examining High School Career and Technical Education Programs and the Postsecondary Outcomes of Career and Technical Education Students in the Round Rock Independent School District explores the alignment of high school CTE programs in Central Texas with high‑wage, in‑demand careers in the region.
- Aligning Registered Apprenticeship (RA) Programs with Career and Technical Education provides information about CTE and identifies steps states can take to build stronger alignment between RA programs and CTE programs at the secondary level.
- The State Work-Based Learning (WBL) Initiative developed resources and tools to support state WBL efforts, including how to measure high-quality WBL and alignment with Perkins V.
- Developing a College- and Career-Ready Workforce: An Analysis of ESSA, Perkins V, IDEA, and WIOA can help state and local agencies identify opportunities to align and leverage policies, programs, and funding across the four laws to support the education-to-workforce pipeline.
AIR Services in Career and Technical Education
AIR offers expertise in CTE research, evaluation, and technical assistance. Through our partnerships we support federal, state, postsecondary, and workforce leaders in designing, implementing, and continuously improving CTE programs.
- We conduct national research and evaluations on CTE programs and outcomes.
- We collaborate with states, districts, and educators to use evidence-based technical assistance strategies that promote effective CTE programs.
- We support state and local teams in designing and implementing quality work-based learning programs.
- We employ innovative methods and tools to support the alignment of CTE programs with labor market needs.
- We support state and local leaders in exploring how state and local CTE policies and programs promote equitable access to, engagement in, and completion of CTE pathways in high-wage and high-demand careers.