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SD Department of Education
Sept. 2021  
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Study shows positive impacts of participation in career and technical education

A recent report from the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Central shows students who were career and technical education (CTE) concentrators were more likely than non-CTE concentrators to graduate from high school on time, enroll in postsecondary education, and attain a postsecondary award or degree within two years.

The study results cover 112,764 Nebraska and South Dakota students whose expected high school graduation year was between school years 2012-13 and 2016-17. Postsecondary outcomes were assessed two and five years after students’ expected high school graduation year.

“There are a lot of positive results for local CTE programs to point to from this study, including CTE concentrators getting a faster start toward postsecondary education compared to their peers,” said the study’s lead author, Marc Brodersen from Marzano Research. “There is a clear value in CTE programs, and state and local education agency leaders can consider the study results when deciding whether to fund, strengthen, or expand CTE programming.”

CTE is broadly defined as programs that offer high school courses aligned to high-demand career fields. CTE concentrators are students who earn multiple credits aligned to a specific career field, such as finance, information technology, or health science. Participation in CTE programs has previously been associated with decreased dropout rates as well as increased high school attendance, college enrollment, and employment rates.

The Nebraska Department of Education and the South Dakota Department of Education partnered with REL Central to explore the short-term and longer-term educational impacts among students in Nebraska and South Dakota who become CTE concentrators. Across Nebraska and South Dakota, about 50 percent of all students become CTE concentrators.

“This study proves what we’ve long suspected: career and technical education has positive, lasting impacts for our students and communities,” said South Dakota Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson. “CTE engages students and sets them up for success in high-demand careers. That’s a win for them individually and a win for South Dakota’s employers.”

Key findings from the study include:

  • CTE concentrators were seven percentage points more likely than non-CTE concentrators to graduate high school on time.
  • CTE concentrators were 10 percentage points more likely to enroll in postsecondary education and two percentage points more likely to attain an award within two years.
  • CTE concentrators were eight percentage points more likely to enroll in postsecondary education within five years and four percentage points more likely to earn up to an associate degree. They were one percentage point less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher within five years.
The Impact of Career and Technical Education on Postsecondary Outcomes in Nebraska and South Dakota is available on the Institute of Education Sciences website.

REL Central, operated by Marzano Research, is one of 10 Regional Educational Laboratories funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. RELs work in partnership to conduct applied research and training with a mission of supporting a more evidence-based education system. REL Central serves Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.


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