Career and Technical Education, often shortened to CTE, has become a hot topic in education in recent years. Teachers, parents, school leaders, and policymakers have all come to focus on this strategy as a means to better prepare students for a changing economic environment. Proponents say the integration of academic and technical skills provided by CTE can help students prepare for the 21st century economy.
But what, exactly, is Career and Technical Education and how is it being implemented in public school districts in Wisconsin and Metro Milwaukee?
Our latest report — Building Bridges: An Analysis of Career and Technical Education in Metro Milwaukee — addresses this question. Using the most recent data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, our analysis answers a number of questions, including:
Overall, we find that the majority of 11th and 12th grade students in the region and the state take at least some CTE courses during high school, yet a smaller percentage of students — less than one third — concentrate on CTE by taking two or more courses in a program of study. Additionally, we find:
These findings provide insight about CTE in the region. The omission of private schools, who do not submit the same data, means the results of the report are not complete. However, this research contributes to the understanding of how students in Metro Milwaukee are utilizing CTE, how CTE is impacting their post-graduation endeavors, and how districts compare to one another.
Some questions for future research include:
While often thought of as a relatively new phenomenon, Career and Technical Education has existed in some form for more than a century. We know that a high-quality CTE curriculum should contain several key elements, but this report suggests that not every school or district in the state or region incorporates each of those elements. We encourage school leaders and policymakers to carefully review these findings and we hope they will use them to improve the effectiveness of CTE programs and enhance their role in boosting post-graduation outcomes and preparing our future workforce.