An Analysis of Career and Technical Education's Influence on Graduation Rates in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015, amended several K-12 accountability requirements. ESSA defined high school graduation rate for the first time in federal education law. In ESSA, the Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) was defined as the ratio of the number of students who graduated with a regular high school diploma over the course of four years divided by the number of students who made up an adjusted cohort. Under ESSA, high schools that graduate less than 67 percent of their students were labeled as low performing. The graduation rate differed significantly between high schools and was influenced by multiple factors. Among other factors, the difference in graduation rates might be attributed to increased dropout rates among groups, such as males, racial minorities, low socioeconomic (SES) families, and schools that were located in urban areas (Bower et al., 2013). This study was modeled after the work of Blowe (2011) and White (2015). A quasi-experimental analysis of ex post facto data was conducted to determine if CTE completion affected students' standardized assessment scores and graduation rates. The purpose of this study was to determine if the completion of Career and Technical Education (CTE) sequences was associated with the graduation rates among Virginia students for the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 cohort years. In addition, the study examined whether there were statistically significant differences in graduation rates among CTE finishers, non-CTE finishers, and total students when regional classifications were considered. School graduation data from the 132 school divisions were grouped according to The National Center for Education Statistics' designated locale classifications type to determine if CTE sequence completion and locale type were associated with graduation rates of each geographic region. The researcher used quasi-experimental, comparative analysis, t-test, and ANOVA to analyze the graduation data of each locale type. The study determined that CTE finishers' graduation rates were significantly higher than students who have not completed CTE programs. In addition, regional classifications had a statistically significant influence on the overall graduation rates for all students.