The Impact of Career and Technical Education on the Achievement of At Risk Students



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One area of education that many school leaders utilize to assist students at risk of dropping out of school is Career and Technical Education (CTE). The hands-on learning and real-world connections that CTE offers are characteristics that are attractive to students who do not see the traditional values associated with a high school education. In contrast to these strengths, some educators doubt the ability of CTE programs to prepare students for college to the same degree as a traditional high school program. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact that CTE programs have on the achievement of at-risk students. Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) and Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores of at-risk high school students (n = 1,161) from a large, suburban school district in Texas were examined to determine if a student’s level of involvement in a CTE program affected their achievement at both the minimum skill and college readiness levels. A logistical regression was performed to determine the extent to which at-risk students’ level of CTE involvement was related to TAKS English Language Arts and Math scaled scores and to PSAT Critical Reading and Math scores. The results of this study indicated that the achievement levels of at-risk students on the measure of minimum skills were not statistically significantly different when analyzed by level of CTE involvement. The achievement levels of at-risk students on the measure of college readiness levels, however, were statistically significantly lower for students with lower levels of CTE involvement. As the level of CTE involvement increased, this difference disappeared. The results of this study should encourage school leaders to re-examine CTE programs and to determine ways in which to merge the best aspects from academic and CTE courses together to increase achievement for all students.



Education, Educational leadership, CTE, At-risk