Approximately 7.5 million secondary students and 3.5 million postsecondary students are enrolled in career and technical education (CTE), which is supported by roughly $1.3 billion in federal and state investments. CTE provides students with academic knowledge and technical and employability skills that prepare them for career fields and credentials. CTE also is increasingly seen as an opportunity to strengthen the connection and coherence among K–12 education, postsecondary education, and workforce development efforts.
More rigorous research is needed, however, to understand the effects of CTE on student outcomes. To expand the evidence base, the CTE Research Network brings together several research teams that are working on major projects studying the impact of CTE. These teams participate in collaborative network activities to share findings, strengthen their research, and learn from one another. In addition, the CTE Research Network conducts its own research, serves as a clearinghouse of high-quality CTE research and resources, and provides training to strength the capacity of the field to conduct and use rigorous CTE research.
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As part of its training mission, the Network has developed research training modules designed for CTE practitioners and state agency staff. The six, self-guided modules can strengthen CTE professionals’ capacity to access, understand, and use CTE data and research as well as conduct their own research.
Although each interactive module is self-contained, the overall series builds in complexity, and later modules draw from terminology and definitions in earlier ones.
As the education and workforce development community looks more and more to CTE to help ensure students are both college and career ready, understanding and using CTE data and research becomes increasingly important. How do we know whether a CTE program is successful and for which groups of students? How do we integrate components from other successful programs to improve what we are doing? Without looking at data and understanding research, we cannot answer such questions. This module provides an introduction for practitioners who are new to CTE data and research or just need a refresher.
Continuous improvement, a structured process for using data and research to improve educational programming, is an important component in creating and maintaining successful CTE programs. For practitioners to engage in continuous improvement—and to use data and research to go beyond accountability—they need to maintain an effective data collection system to support data-based decisions that help lead to equity and improvement for all students. In this module, practitioners will learn how data and research are used to improve CTE programs. This module is designed to support school district and college CTE program administrators in understanding CTE data and how best to use it.
Have you ever wondered why you can have all the right program components in place and still not meet your goals? A program evaluation is a critical tool for assessing whether a program is working or not and why. In this module, you will learn about when and why to conduct a program evaluation, the different types of evaluations, the role of logic models, best practices in program evaluation, and the difference between a program evaluation and performance measurement. This module is designed to support school district and college CTE program administrators in understanding program evaluation.
By partnering with researchers, state CTE administrators have the opportunity to better understand CTE programming and practices across their states. In this module, you will learn how including CTE research-friendly data in state accountability and longitudinal data systems can enable state practitioners and research partners to answer important questions that can help improve the quality and mix of CTE offerings. This module is designed to support state education agency administrators in partnering with researchers to analyze statewide secondary and postsecondary CTE data.
With research as a guide, you can design CTE programs that promote equity and help close the opportunity gap at your site. This module examines the student groups identified in the federal Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, better known as Perkins V; explains how to use data to ensure these students are served, and presents lessons learned and best practices for promoting equity in CTE and closing the opportunity gap. The module is designed to support school district and college CTE program administrators in using research to develop equitable CTE programs. (Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.)
Building on the preceding modules, this module explores how to use research findings to strengthen communications about your CTE program’s value. You will learn about the value of developing a strategic approach for communicating research findings, including how to tailor your message to the needs of the different audiences you want to reach. The module closes with a review of communication options available and what they look like in action. This module is designed to support school district and college CTE program administrators.
Not sure of the meaning of a particular research term? This companion glossary defines key terminology from each of the six modules.
Glossary (PDF, 392 KB)