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CTE & Dropout Prevention: Motivating Students with Career-Focused Learning

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 -- Jasmine Auger

Annually, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States. That means nearly one in three students fail to graduate with a diploma. For some students, dropping out is the result of low engagement—and these are the students that often thrive in a career and technical education (CTE) program. CTE can play a critical role in helping students persevere in their high school career and preparing them for postsecondary education by offering relevant learning experiences that address the question of “Why do I need to learn this?” Here, we’ve compiled four ways that CTE can keep students in school and lower dropout rates low: 

  • CTE empowers students to explore various career paths

By 2017, an estimated 2.5 million jobs are expected to be added to the workforce, and students need to be knowledgeable regarding all of their different career possibilities. CTE helps students discover their interests and passions, and it empowers them to find a pathway that will lead them to success in high school, college, and the workforce. 

The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) identifies a total of 16 Career Clusters in their National Career Clusters® Framework. Each cluster is a representation of Career Pathways that are related by skill or product. Within each cluster, there are 79 different career pathways that correspond to a collection of courses and training to prepare students for those careers. These pathways include such diverse careers as Environmental Service Systems, Logistics Planning & Management Services, and Security & Protective Services. 

  • CTE engages students in learning

Many students lose interest in their education because the curriculum doesn’t seem to have any real-world application. An annual Gallup survey measuring student engagement shows that eight in 10 fifth graders report being engaged, but that number falls to four in 10 once they reach high school. CTE provides students who are in need of an alternative learning environment with the opportunity to relate their curriculum to real-world situations, creating a more engaging and meaningful experience.

To illustrate this point, take a minute to consider what school is like for fifth grade students—besides lunch and recess, think of how hands-on the classroom activities typically are. Students are making, molding, creating, and doing! But for most students, once they reach high school this dynamic shifts. Instead of consistently participating and performing tasks, they’re being lectured to and asked to take notes. According to the Gates’ Foundation-backed report The Silent Epidemic, 81 percent of dropouts say relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in high school.

  • CTE offers students personalized learning opportunities

In recent years, personalized learning has represented a significant shift in education program design. CTE seamlessly aligns with this shift by allowing students to customize their learning experiences. With CTE, students can choose areas of study that pique their interest and have the chance to create their own learning paths. They have the opportunity to approach CTE programs through a variety of different avenues, including internships, job shadowing, and service learning. Giving students the power to take charge of their educational futures in this manner enables them to be more committed and engaged in their learning. 

  • CTE builds positive community relationships

In the 2006 High School Survey of Student Engagement, 24 percent of students who considered dropping out of high school cited the reason: “No adults in the school cared about me.” CTE programs offer students opportunities to have mentors who know them, look out for them, and push them to succeed. They often have the option to join career and technical student organizations (CTSOs), which engage students in co-curricular activities related to their CTE programs. When involved with CTSOs, students work regularly with an adult supervisor to prepare for local and national competitions, take on student leadership roles in the organization, and develop project management skills, such as communication and public speaking.

Chances to form close relationships with mentors and peers can also arise through career exploration opportunities like job shadows, internships, and volunteer experiences that CTE programs regularly provide. Regardless of where these relationships are formed, they are exactly the types of connections that are essential to keeping students in school.

Edmentum is proud to be a leading provider of online CTE solutions, with 80 semesters of CTE courses across all 16 Career Clusters. Want to learn more about how our CTE solutions can help keep your students engaged and raise your school’s or district’s graduation rates? Click here to view a short video highlighting Edmentum’s CTE course library, or watch our OnDemand webinar for an overview and demonstration