Emily Hodge of Montclair State University, Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, published Tracking and the Future of Career and Technical Education: How Efforts to Connect School and Work Can Avoid the Past Mistakes of Vocational Education.
The brief examines challenges that result from efforts to link learning to post-high school work while avoiding low academic expectations for students who are unlikely to attend college.
It summarizes the history of what was once known as vocational education and its relation to career tracking. Vocational education has a long history in the American school system and has been at the center of some of the most contentious debates about the purpose of public education. Its history is intertwined with race, class and gender.
The brief describes how vocational education evolved into Career and Technical Education in ways that reflected a larger shift in the world economy, including the increased role of information technology, growth in demand for highly differentiated health services, and the expansion of new forms of manufacturing. Biotechnology and green energy also continue to expand the scope of CTE programs.
While diversification can potentially benefit CTE, it may also crowd out students – especially those from lower-income communities. The potential exists for a status hierarchy in CTE-related careers.