Connecting High School, College and the Labor Market: Evidence on the Scale-up of Career Pathways in California
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The author examines a new generation of Career and Technical Education (CTE) models that has shifted from isolated courses to sequences of study that integrate academics and skills in specific career areas. The study uses data for a competitive grant administered by the California Department of Education (CDE) that incentives K-12 school districts to partner with community colleges and businesses to increase the career readiness levels of high school students. This study provides causal estimates of receiving large grants (i.e., up to 15 million dollars) to create aligned pathways by leveraging a natural experiment that occurs at the margin of grant receipt. Per pupil CTE expenditures increased by 21.7 percent at school districts that received the grant compared to unsuccessful applicants. Furthermore, dropout rates declined by 23 percent in districts receiving grants. The reduction in dropout rates appears to be concentrated for females and 11th grade students. The impacts for females may be related to design choices by grant applicants to focus on creating career pathways in traditionally female dominated sectors (e.g. health care support). The cost of preventing a single student from dropping out from this intervention is approximately 18,000 dollars compared to the present discounted value of a high school diploma of 300,000 dollars.