The Impact of Career and Technical Education on the Academic Achievement and Graduation Rates of Students in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Blowe, Eleanor Hearst
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In 2002, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation (U.S. Department of Education, 2002) was signed into law to help children in the United States receive quality education and learn the basic skills needed to be successful (Chadd & Drage, 2006). The central focus of this legislation is the core academic subjects, which are identified in the legislation as English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography. Career and technical education (CTE) is not specifically mentioned in the legislation, which suggests that NCLB and the high-stakes testing associated with the accountability benchmarks could impact the future of CTE. Even though the primary expectation of high-stakes testing is to increase academic achievement in specific areas, many worthwhile school programs could suffer from unintended consequences of this high-stakes testing initiative. One of the strategies that many school districts are using to improve student performance in the core subject areas mentioned in the NCLB legislation is to devote more instructional time to the tested content subjects, such as reading, mathematics, social studies and science. Hence, the development of an unintended consequence of narrowing the curriculum offered to secondary students. As a result more CTE courses may be dropped from high school master schedules, which make the topic of specific concern for educational leaders (Gordon et al., 2007). School administrators and school leaders are concerned about school accreditation and student performance on state mandated tests. Therefore, examining career and technical education student performance on Virginia's Standards of Learning assessments and the graduation rates of CTE students would help to determine the impact of CTE enrollment on student achievement. As such, the impact of CTE on high-stakes testing in the Commonwealth of Virginia was the impetus for this topic of study. This purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the academic performance of CTE completers and non-CTE completers in the Commonwealth of Virginia on the Standards of Learning English and mathematics assessments, as well as cohort graduation rates. This quantitative study used descriptive statistics, such as mean and standard deviation, to determine if their pass rates and graduation rates differ during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 school years. A t-test was used to determine if they differ significantly from each other. Findings indicate that statistically (p<.05), CTE completers had higher mathematics and Grade 11 English reading pass rates from those of non-CTE completers. The CTE completers in this study also demonstrated higher cohort graduation rates. It appears that a concentration of career and technical education makes a positive impact the pass rates of students on the Standards of Learning assessments and cohort graduation rates.
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