Graduation, College, and Employment Outcomes for CTE Students with an Identified Disability

Celeste Carruthers, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Shaun Dougherty, Vanderbilt University
Sophie McGuinness, Vanderbilt University
Sydney Payne, American Institutes for Research
Roddy Theobald, National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) at American Institutes for Research

Full report:


This policy brief summarizes a report by Celeste K. Carruthers, Shaun Dougherty, Sophie McGuinness, Sydney Payne, and Roddy Theobald that examines the relationship between CTE participation and transition outcomes for students with an identified disability (SWD) across different education policy settings and for students receiving special education services for different identified disabilities. Specifically in this report, we use data from three states—Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Washington—to summarize CTE participation, graduation, and postsecondary outcomes for students with different identified disabilities in these states. Officials from these three states provided data on course-taking patterns of students in public high schools, as well as indicators describing CTE participation, disability identification, and data on whether these students graduated from high school, attended college after graduation, and were employed after graduation.

For SWD, we find that CTE concentration is associated with a higher likelihood of high school graduation across all three states and all disability categories and, with some exceptions, a higher likelihood of employment in the year after high school. SWD in Tennessee who concentrate in CTE are more likely to enroll in college than non-CTE SWD, but this is not the case in Massachusetts or Washington. These patterns generally reinforce positive relationships between CTE participation and outcomes for SWD that have been reported in the prior literature—particularly for graduation and employment outcomes. There are important differences, however, across states and disability identifications. We conclude that CTE policymakers should not consider SWD as a monolith but rather as representing a broad array of disability categories with different trends and needs.