Longitudinal Outcomes of CTE Participation: P-16+ Transitions in Texas and the Rio Grande Valley
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The jobs of tomorrow are here today. They require enhanced skill sets and higher levels of education. Attainment has already fallen behind economic development, though. To fill these gaps, policymakers have turned towards practices which lead to better transitions between high school, higher education, and the workforce. This study looks at one such reform model. It examines longitudinal student outcomes associated with participation in Career and Technology Education (CTE), specifically Tech Prep programming. The study explores the benefits of participation in Tech Prep across P-16+ transitions in both Texas and the Rio Grande Valley (RGV)—an area known for its unique context and widespread implementation of CTE Tech Prep. Methods include propensity score matching of students to control for selection bias, and the multilevel modeling of logistic regression on a variety of outcomes associated with Tech Prep participation. The outcome variables investigated encompass five key areas: high school transitions, higher education enrollment, developmental remediation, postsecondary attainment, and workforce participation. Analysis suggests participation in Tech Prep during high school leads to gains across all P-16+ transition points. Tech Prep increases opportunities to transition to higher education after high school, providing stronger pathways to community college and greater access for traditionally disadvantaged students. When combined with academic rigor, Tech Prep participation works to improve enrollment and expands matriculation into four-year institutions. Importantly, Tech Prep interacts with a number of student traits, increasing the likelihood of postsecondary attainment. RGV area comparisons indicate significant regional variation, including greater odds of college readiness and postsecondary enrollment. Results are numerous and provide strong evidence for the efficacy of Tech Prep models in the RGV, Texas, and beyond. Findings inform upon the utility of Tech Prep programs as well as illustrate the possibilities of using longitudinal data to explore effects of educational models on student outcomes. Moreover, implications connect to the greater policy discussion. Knowledge gained from this study offers insight into the current legislative stalemate over federal Perkins reauthorization. Additionally, it provides useful guidelines for Texas as schools and districts work to develop CTE programs in response to recent changes in graduation plans under House Bill 5.