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Education Leadership: How Career and Technical Education Options Engage Students and Raise Graduation Rates

Monday, April 24, 2017 -- Jasmine Auger

“By providing relevance and strong relationships between students and the education environment, CTE can be an effective means of ensuring that students complete high school. For those students who have already left the education system, alternative delivery programs designed around CTE provide practical skills and an approach to education that can re-engage disconnected youth.”

                ACTE Issue Brief: CTE’s Role in Dropout Prevention and Recovery

Although more students are graduating from high school than ever before, a high school diploma is becoming more and more essential, and the national drop-out rate remains an important issue. For some students, dropping out is the result of low engagement—and these are the students who 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 prepare 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 help lower dropout rates and keep students in school: 

CTE empowers students to explore various career paths

Through 2020, there will be an estimated 55 million job openings in the American economy, of which 65% will require at least some postsecondary training. Students need to be knowledgeable regarding all of their career possibilities and how to make them realities. 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. 

Advance CTE, formerly the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), identifies a total of 16 Career Clusters in its 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

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent. CTE offers students who are in need of an alternative learning environment 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 5th 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, there has been a significant shift toward more personalized models of learning. 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

CTE programs offer students opportunities to have mentors who know them, look out for them, and push them to succeed. A recent study found that young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. Students 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.

Edmentum is proud to offer an industry-leading Career and Technical Education library of over 100 semester courses, covering all 16 nationally recognized Career Clusters®. Want to learn more about how your school or district can partner with Edmentum to provide students with engaging CTE options that can help keep them on track for graduation? Check out this short video to see how Keller Independent School District is targeting student interests with Edmentum’s online CTE solutions.