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CTE Innovation and Impact: Lessons from NYC

About Career Technical Education

Career Technical Education (CTE) aims to prepare students for a wide variety of careers in an evolving job market. With encouragement from the federal government, a growing number of states and school districts have recently focused on reforming their CTE systems. Four states in particular—Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York—have been leaders in providing CTE coursework and learning experiences aligned with increased academic standards.

As home to one of the largest and most diverse systems of urban CTE programs in the country, New York City serves as a unique laboratory for learning about CTE innovation. There are more than 300 CTE programs in New York City, offered in 135 of the City’s nearly 400 high schools. These programs cover a wide range of careers, including those in law and public safety, agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality, marketing and human services.

Approximately 20,000 students are assigned to one of NYC's CTE programs each year. These students must meet the same academic standards and pass the same demanding high school exit exams that other students must pass, while also participating in mandated “work-based learning” and technical assessments of the occupational skills that they acquire in high school. Students who complete a State-approved CTE program of study can receive a CTE-endorsed Regents diploma.

About Our Study

The Research Alliance is conducting several related studies of the implementation and impact of New York City’s CTE programs. Conducted in collaboration with MDRC and the University of Connecticut, this work will examine the causal impact of NYC’s CTE programs on students’ career and work-related learning experiences, social and behavioral competencies, high school graduation, and transitions to college and the labor market.

The studies will focus on students who enrolled in a CTE program as a first-time 9th grader between 2007 and 2017. Researchers will conduct in-depth interviews with CTE program directors to develop an understanding of program characteristics and implementation strategies. Surveys and administrative records will be used to examine students’ exposure to CTE-program components; achievement and social competencies during high school; diploma receipt; and post-secondary education and employment outcomes. Using a naturally occurring randomized control trial (RCT) design that results from the NYC high school admissions process, our work will rigorously assess CTE impacts on students’ experiences and outcomes. Because not all CTE programs admit students through a lottery-like process, we will also use statistical methods to compare the outcomes of a larger sample of CTE programs to a matched group of high schools serving similar students. Importantly, we will examine variation across the City’s diverse CTE offerings to identify program features that are associated with stronger impacts. We expect these findings to produce valuable lessons and insights for the NYC Department of Education, as well as other schools districts around the country that are implementing and developing CTE programs.   

This work is being funded through the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Key Collaborators

James Kemple

Executive Director of the Research Alliance for NYC Schools; Research Professor of Teaching and Learning

Meryle Weinstein

Research Associate Professor of Education Policy

Sean Corcoran

Vanderbilt University