THE IMPACT OF SECONDARY CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION ON STUDENT POST-SECONDARY PREPAREDNESS
Beneath most efforts to reform education is the assumption that its current direction can be problematic, or, at minimum, not as effective for the economy, labor market, and workplace. The reform of the American high school must have Career and Technical Education (CTE) as an integral part of its efforts (Lynch, 2000). Advocating for the integration of CTE and classical academics for all students (Castellano, Stringfield, & Stone, 2003) helps to ensure an American workforce that would be skilled, adaptable, creative, and equipped for success in a global marketplace (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore how secondary CTE programming influences CTE students’ preparedness for post-secondary college and career pursuits. There is very little empirical research on the impact of secondary CTE on student post-secondary outcomes. Compared to other types of school reform, there is little research on CTE. Most CTE research is on the mechanics of CTE such as, but not limited to, course-taking, job outlook trends, CTE student characteristics, and comparisons of graduation rates and test scores between CTE and non-CTE students. There is an absence of research from the perspective of a CTE expert body to explore the topic under investigation. This research helps to fill a gap in the literature. A modified Delphi technique adapted for a qualitative approach was used for the purpose of this investigation. The goal of this research methodology was to build towards a consensus among an expert panel for the topic under investigation. The study had consensus and thematic findings. Some of the significant consensus findings were the discovery of the uniqueness of secondary CTE curriculum factors, such as work-related activities and transferable artifacts, that do contribute to student post-secondary preparedness; that the collaboration between industry partners and CTE educators offers irreplaceable, real world opportunities about life and work for students; and, that structural and systematic racism in educational systems does have impact on CTE curriculum. There were four themes developed from the data: Preparation is Key, Pedagogy is Key, Positioning is Key, and Equity is Key. Equity is Key led to the constructing of three codes: Race Positive, Race Negative, and Race Neutral. Some implications for this local education agency should be the incorporation of some form of quality training for staff; the incorporation of business partners serving as mentors for students and leading professional development for teachers; and, the incorporation of an intentional effort to recruit and retain non-traditional students towards underrepresented career pathways.