Georgia Policy Labs Reports

Author ORCID Identifier

Celeste K. Carruthers:

Shaun Dougherty:

Daniel Kreisman:

Roddy Theobald:



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Like other domains in public schooling, concerns exist about the degree to which all students—regardless of race and ethnicity, economic circumstances, disability identification, or gender—have access to high-quality programs. We take these questions to the context of Career and Technical Education (CTE) in American high schools.

CTE is a highly-localized phenomenon in education, reflecting differences in skills demanded across labor markets and the equally wide latitude afforded to states and localities in designing, implementing, and reporting on CTE programs. Coupling this with the fact that education funding is highly-varied across the country makes a study of equity and access in CTE program offerings a natural line of inquiry.

In the following report, Celeste K. Carruthers, Shaun Dougherty, Daniel Kreisman, and Roddy Theobald use administrative data from three states (Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Washington) and one large metro area (the Atlanta region) over several years to answer three questions:

1. Does CTE participation differ by student gender, race, ethnicity, family income, or disability identification? 2. Are differences in CTE participation due to differences in availability across schools, or are they a product of different take-ups across groups within the same school? 3. Do student characteristics differ across CTE career clusters?

This is the first study we know of to bring all these factors together. We highlight three findings.

First, while student characteristics like race and ethnicity, gender, economic disadvantage, or disability identification predict CTE course-taking, there are wide differences across states in these relationships. Hence, broad generalizations about the relationship between CTE and race and ethnicity may not be warranted without careful consideration of state and local factors.

Second, differences in CTE credit accumulation across race and ethnicity, economic status, and disability identification are generally larger across schools than within them, which implies that the differences we observe in CTE credit accumulation might be due to differences in school-level access to these courses or typical CTE enrollment rates across schools with higher or lower proportions of non-White students.

Finally, we find that male and female students concentrate in a very different mix of CTE career clusters, mirroring gender differences across occupations in the labor market. This finding suggests that the gender differences we observe in the labor market may begin early in students’ academic careers.



Career & Technical Education Policy Exchange

A Multi-State Study of Equity in Career and Technical Education