ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Professor David Bergin for providing me with support and guidance throughout my research. Through my experiences working with him I learned a great deal about the research process and how to structure my writing and feel better prepared to move forward with research in the future. I would also like to thank my thesis committee members who provided me with a lot of feedback on how to improve my research topic and gave me ideas to build on in future research studies. A great amount of thanks goes to the schools sampled in this study.
The director of the Area Career Center was very welcoming and open to my research topic allowing me to gain as much exposure to career and technical education and their students as I wanted. Without the ACC’s interest in my study this research would not have been possible. I also want to thank the local high school that allowed me access to a few students even though they had very demanding schedules. Gaining insight from Advanced Placement students creating an interesting element to my study that I have found very valuable.
ducation at an Area Career Center in mid Missouri. Newer programs that combine career and technical education courses with traditional high school instruction can benefit students in allowing them to connect their academic training with real world careers and practical concepts. This study looks at students’ perceptions of CTE, the sources of influence they reported on their decisions to take or not take CTE courses in high school and the role cultural capital played in their views.
Utilizing a qualitative method of data collection eight high school seniors enrolled in either CTE only classes, AP only classes or a combined CTE and AP course load were interviewed about their views of CTE at the local area career center. All of the students were white and there were four boys and four girls interviewed in the study. Results show that all students in the study associated CTE with some form of hands on education, with students enrolled in CTE courses reacting more favorably to CTE instruction and its connection to careers and occupations.
The most significant influences on students’ decisions to take or not take CTE classes were their future academic or career goals and how CTE knowledge would or would not help them. Other reported influences include teachers, family members and personal experiences. Finally, the role of cultural capital in students’ views of CTE is explored reaching the conclusion that more data and analysis is needed to find more arguable claims. 1 CHAPTER 1: Introduction In this study, I interview high school students in order to understand their thoughts on career and technical education programs in high school.
One reason why this is important is that according to a 2002 survey by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Center to Workforce Preparation, nearly 75 percent of employers report difficulty when trying to hire qualified workers.
Forty percent say that applicants are poorly skilled and 30 percent say that applicants have the wrong skills for available jobs (The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) www. acteonline. org). I believe this means that career and technical education can play a vital role in helping promote this environment and help students succeed through hands on education coupled with challenging high school curriculum.
The current high school curriculum in the United States faces challenges with the No Child Left Behind legislation that mandates a standards-based education. This initiative makes career and technical education harder to promote in public schools because CTE courses are elective classes. It rests on the students to enroll themselves in courses that will provide them with the best preparation for post high school opportunities. In this study, I ask students about their attitudes toward CTE courses.
Research on comprehensive education programs suggests combining more rigorous forms of education, such as advanced placement (AP) with CTE (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2006; Stern, D. , Dayton, C. , Paik, I. -W. , Weisberg, A. , & Evans, J. , 1988). Because of this I include students who are taking AP courses in this study to gauge their responses to CTE. While government statistics show that most high school students 2 take at least one “vocational” course in their high school careers such as typing or home economics.
(http://www. ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/cte/index. html), it seems unfortunate that high school students do not pursue a more advanced career and technical education if it is available to them alongside their academic coursework. Students who are interested in a more academic route with AP courses can balance their studies with career and technical coursework. While benefits of career and technical education can appear obvious to some, it is not difficult to understand the rejection of this alternative form of education when at least a college degree is becoming a requirement for the majority of jobs.
Purpose and Research Questions Newer programs that combine career and technical education courses with traditional high school instruction can benefit students in allowing them to connect their academic training with real world careers and practical concepts. Research on career and technical education in the U. S. has a history of highlighting the faults of CTE education such as not delivering on its promises and in some cases being a one-way ticket to a working class life (Claus, 1990).
These out-dated reports are representative of Career and Technical Education programs in the older sense and not the newer, academically and career focused model being utilized in many high schools today. There is little research on why students take their chosen classes in high school and how students connect their high school curriculum to their post high school decisions and careers. There is also little research on how social class might impact students’ views and use of career and technical education.
In this study I addressed students’ views of current high 3 school career and technical education programs in an Area Career Center (ACC) in Missouri. Area career centers fall under the umbrella of CTE housing career focused coursework and training in a separate building from local high schools. I investigated how students’ reports of cultural capital seem to influence these views. I chose to conduct a qualitative study because qualitative research allows one to investigate the idiosyncratic meanings that people construct about their lived experience.
I was able to pursue in-depth reasons that the students give for their decisions, and was able to use follow-up questions to elaborate on understandings. The present study will address the following research questions: Research Question 1: How do students who are enrolled in CTE or AP classes perceive CTE? Research Question 2: What sources of influence do they report experiencing regarding academic versus CTE coursework? Research Question 3: What role does cultural capital play in students’ views of CTE coursework and their decisions to take or not take CTE classes in high school?
Limitations to the Study There were a few limitations to my method of recruiting students and the transferability of the findings. First, there are over 1100 students from the high school enrolled in CTE classes at the Area Career Center so eight participants is not a very representative sample of students. However, qualitative research methods required that I keep my participant pool small. Second, at the local high school, I did not have as much control over the students selected for participation as I did at the ACC. the site counselor who helped me in my
4 recruitment process may have introduced bias into the process. Third, all of the participants were white and there were more males than females in CTE classes and more females than males in AP/Advanced classes. Also, the three AP students in this study were all interested in theatre, an area of study not offered at the ACC so there was probably a general feeling of lack of interest in CTE because no courses were offered in their specific area of interest. Future qualitative studies would benefit from more diverse students from underrepresented populations.
Also, because student recruitment took place in the spring, it was hard to recruit students, especially those enrolled in AP courses (either AP only or CTE/AP combined), because end of the year AP exams take place during the spring. Recruitment of students in the fall might create a wider participant pool. 5 CHAPTER 2: Literature Review History of Career and Technical Education Career and technical education began as vocational education in Europe in the 19th century in response to the increase in demand for skilled workers who were educated in industrialized professions.
Other factors that influenced the birth of career and technical education include the interest traditional European elites had in their children receiving both an education as well as certification in skills. They wanted their children to gain access to positions in law and theology, and the middle class parents wanted their children to attain the necessary educational credentials to help them enter careers in the civil service or managerial positions (Benavot, 1983). In the U. S. , federal funding for career and technical education was initiated with the passing of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917.
Over the next 65 years and four modifications to the act in 1947, 1958, 1963 and 1968, career and technical education increased funding, expanded programs to improve in the areas of science, math, and foreign languages, offered support for technical occupations related to national defense, and included work study programs. In 1968, a National Advisory Council on Vocational Education was initiated to start collecting information about the progress and development of vocational education programs and students.
In 1984, the Vocational Education Act was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act (Perkins I, P. L. 98-524). While continuing federal support for vocational education, it established programs emphasizing the acquisition of job skills through both vocational and technical education. The act also sought to make vocational education 6 programs accessible to “special populations,” including individuals with disabilities, disadvantaged individuals, single parents and homemakers, and incarcerated individuals. The Carl D.
Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act Amendments of 1990 (Perkins II, P. L. 101-392) made several revisions to the 1984 Act. Notably, the act created the tech-prep program designed to coordinate secondary and postsecondary vocational education activities into a coherent sequence of courses. Programs to eliminate sex bias were designed to prepare students for nontraditional training and employment (e. g. , training women to be welders or men to be nurses).
Also, the law also required states to develop and implement performance standards and measures (e.g. , program completion and job placement) to assess gains in learning and in program performance. The Perkins Act of 1998 provided specific federal assistance for secondary and postsecondary vocational education (Skinner and Apling, 2005). The reauthorized 1998 Act also made modifications to performance standards and measures of the 1990 Act. A core set of performance indicators were included in the 1998 Act that resulted in sanctions if the level of performance was not reached or increased funding if performance exceeded the requirements.
A key element of the 1998 Act was a greater focus on accountability with states required to “provide data for four core performance indicators focusing on: (1) student attainment; (2) credential attainment, (3) placement and retention, and (4) participation in and completion of non-traditional programs. ” (CRS Report for Congress) Under its most recent amendment in 2006, the Carl D. Perkins Act became the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. The 2006 amendment showed one of the most notable revisions to the act since it was established by replacing the term
7 ‘vocational education’ with ‘career and technical education. ’ This name change is especially significant in research on the influences student report in their decisions to take CTE classes because of the stigma associated with the world ‘vocational. ’ ‘Vocational’ education resonates with many as being representative of vocational education in the traditional sense and not academically focused or resulting in a college degree or high status occupations the way career and technical education can be perceived.
Changing the name could help change the image of CTE towards a viable and legitimate option for secondary schooling. The 2006 revision also set in place a system of accountability to coincide with the No Child Left Behind Standards mandated for public education in the United States. Under this system of accountability, academic attainment and graduation rates of students enrolled in CTE at the secondary level will be measured.
These new accountability measures create a greater need for research on how students perceive CTE in order to discover additional methods for recruiting new students and drawing greater attention from parents who steer their children towards a more college prep, academically focused course load. If students’ decisions not to take CTE classes rests in their view that to go to college and be a doctor they have to take advanced high school classes and CTE doesn’t look good on his transcript, administrators can use this information to create better recruitment methods.
They can focus on educating students and parents on the goals of CTE and how these goals align with the traditional or advanced coursework. The subject areas most commonly associated with career and technical education are the following: Agriculture (careers related to food and fiber production and agribusiness); Business (accounting, business administration, management, information technology and 8 entrepreneurship);
Family and Consumer Sciences (culinary arts, management and life skills); Health Occupations (nursing, dental, and medical technicians); Marketing (management, entrepreneurship, merchandising and retail); Technology (production, communication and transportation systems); and Trade and Industrial (skilled trades such as automotive technician, carpenter, computer numerical control technician).
One difficulty in defining career and technical education coursework is the existence of district regulated definitions on what qualifies as a CTE course and how many courses a student needs to take to be classified as a CTE student. In the state of Missouri, there are 16 career clusters (See Appendix C, Table 1). “Career Clusters can give all students the academic preparation, guidance, careerrelated knowledge and flexibility to help them plan studies that are in line with their interests, abilities, and career goals.
The Career Clusters framework offers a practical way for educators in all disciplines to create relevant contexts for their students’ learning. At the same time, it reinforces the schools’ fundamental objectives of academic accountability and improved achievement for all students. ” (Source: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Division of Career Education http://dese. mo. gov/divcareered/career_clusters. htm).
In response to the need for a redesigned educational system in U.S. public schools to fit the needs of the 21st century, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) compiled a report on their views of how the remodeled education system should look (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2006). The report proposes that Career and Technical Education should be modified to do the following: (1) Support students in the acquisition of rigorous core knowledge, skills, habits and attitudes needed for success in9 postsecondary education and the high-skilled workplace, (2)
Engage students in specific career-related learning experiences that equip them to make well-informed decisions about further education and training and employment opportunities, and (3) Prepare students who may choose to enter the workforce directly after high school with levels of skills and knowledge in a particular career area that will be valued in the marketplace (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2006).
Career and Technical Education Research Research on CTE tends to fall most often in two areas: the likelihood of students dropping out of school and how to serve at risk students (Plank, 2001; Stern, et al. , 1988; Catterall, 1986), and longitudinal effects of CTE programs (Plank, 2001; Arum & Shavit, 1995). In 1986, Catterall and Stern looked at the use of alternative high school programs in preventing students from dropping out.
They utilized the California sub-sample of the 1980 and 1982 High School and Beyond surveys (involving nearly 3,000 sophomores and 3,000 seniors) and studied the impact alternative education programs had on labor market outcomes for students. The High School and Beyond Survey in 1980 asked students how many courses they had completed in each of four CTE areas: business, office, or sales; trade and industry; technical courses; or other vocational courses. In addition to finding mixed support for alternative programs to prevent drop outs, they also found positive results on employment and wages.
Stern, et al (1988) conducted a study in California that yielded similar results. Their 10 research reported the results from the first two years of an effort in 10 high schools to replicate the California Peninsula Academies. The students in the Academy school were identified by school counselors as “low performance students” with a high risk of dropping out of school (Stern, et al. , 1988). They were then placed into the Peninsula Academy, which was a school within a school, for grades 10 through 12.
These low performing students took most of their remaining classes together at the school including coursework in English, math, and science as well as a course in the particular Academy’s focus (Stern, et al. , p. 163, 1988). The “Academy” model combines the core academic curriculum with technical instruction in a particular occupational field. Local employers representing that field participate in various ways by donating equipment to the school and serving as mentors to the students.
For example, Hewlett-Packard contributed computer expertise and hardware. The companies also provide summer jobs for some of the students at the Academy school. “Having a paid summer job which is related to the Academy’s instructional focus creates a powerful connection between school work and “real” work” (Stern, et al. , p. 163, 1988). Academy students generally compiled better grades and more course credits than students in comparison groups at the same high schools.
At three sites in particular, Academy students consistently out-performed comparison groups in the first two years. The authors also found that results were replicated at other sites and helped prevent students from dropping out of school.
Claus (1990) conducted an ethnographic analysis of the student experience in a single CTE program, looking to answer two questions: (1) why did the students in the program report satisfaction and improved attitudes in association with their CTE program and (2) how 11 was CTE related to increasing the opportunity of these primarily working to lower class, academically-alienated youth? The CTE experience tended to reinforce class-related inequalities.
“The ethnographic fieldwork and analysis suggest that while the students found their CTE program enjoyable and rewarding, this response was often rooted in a classroom experience which limited their development and reinforced their tendency toward working to lower class work and lives after school” (Claus, 1990, p. 13).
Arum and Shavit (1995) utilized the 1987 “High School and Beyond” data to study individuals’ early labor market outcomes after high school and their track placement while in high school. They found that “vocational secondary education is neither as pernicious nor as detrimental as some of its opponents have maintained. ” (p. 199) They found that CTE inhibited students in their decisions to continue on to college or achieve success in high prestige occupations, but also found that CTE programs serve as “a safety net for those high school graduates who are unlikely to go on to college.
” (p. 199) Plank’s 2001 report for the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education looked at the balance between CTE and academic course-taking during high school for members of a longitudinal study beginning in 1988 with their eighth grade year. The students in the study were broken down into four groups: purely academic concentrators, purely CTE concentrators, dual concentrators who took both academic and CTE course work, and a group of students who took neither the purely academic or CTE coursework.
Plank found the following: (1) academic concentrators showed the highest 1992 achievement, followed by dual (academic and vocational) concentrators, then students who fulfilled neither concentration, and then CTE concentrators; (2) almost all students were either in 12 postsecondary education or working, or both, in 1994, with academic concentrators most likely to be in full-time school and CTE concentrators most likely to be in full-time employment.
The study concluded that further research is needed to determine what characteristics of CTE or academic education increase the risk of dropping out, and what types of integration of academic and vocational education are most successful. Gaunt and Palmer (2005) conducted a quantitative study that investigated students’ attitudes towards career and technical education (CTE), what influenced their views, and their course selection decisions.
They utilized the data from a previous study in Michigan of over 450 high school seniors. The were interested in the career and technical education funding crisis that is occurring in the wake of No Child Left Behind.
Gaunt and Palmer (2005) found the majority of students citing social relationships with their friends and parents as the prime influencers of their views of career and technical education. In addition, students offered responses on how course structure, the benefits offered from each program, and advertising of the CTE programs affected their views of CTE. These results provide support for further research on the subject of career and technical education that puts an emphasis on academic training alongside CTE instruction in career-related fields.
What was interesting about Gaunt and Palmer’s (2005) data was that more than half of the students not enrolled in career and technical education courses saw the courses as helping students prepare for college immediately after high school in comparison to 81% of students enrolled in CTE courses who saw this same connection. More than 80 percent of both groups of students saw the ACC as preparation for work after high school and close to 80 percent of all students saw the ACC in Michigan as designed for students of all ability levels.
13 Utilizing a qualitative methods approach with open ended interviewing methods, my study gives the students a greater opportunity to express their views of CTE education and how they compare it with their purely academic coursework. Gaunt and Palmer’s (2005) research is a big step forward in literature on career and technical education and I hope the dialogue of the participants in my study help take research even more forward. Sources of Influence How students perceive career and technical education and the their high school coursetaking decisions can be attributed to a variety of factors.
In this study one of my research questions examined what are these factors and how do they influence student choices. Previous research on the influences students experience while choosing their high school classes include parents and friends, current labor markets, and school social networks including teachers and counselors. The most detailed account of influences that impact a student’s decisions to pursue a CTE curriculum in high school is Rossetti’s 1991 study about the influenced students who chose not to enroll in a Vocational School in Ohio.
While evaluating the external factors that contributed to students’ decisions to enroll in CTE classes, Rossetti found that friends were the most influential with fifty-three percent stating that they had consulted their friends. (Rossetti, 1987) The next most influential figures were mother/female guardian (49%); father/male guardian (44%); brother/sister (39%); counselor (35%); girl/boyfriend (32%); other relative (32%); teacher(s) (28%); and athletic coach(es) (21%).
A report by Dunham and Frome (2003) took a closer look at the role teachers and 14 counselors can play in encouraging and influencing students in their high school course selections. Their results were similar to Rossetti’s (1991). Current labor markets can also affect a students’ decision to enroll in CTE coursework. A publication by the National Center for Educational Statistics reported “students may be more likely to concentrate in vocational areas that prepare them for occupations with increasing job opportunities” (p. 1). In the case of the current U. S.
job market, this would mean that students who take advanced courses in math and science and focus their studies towards engineering careers could be doing so not for their interest in those subjects but because they recognize the labor market’s shift to careers in engineering fields. This would also mean that these same students would specifically withdraw from involvement in courses focusing on low demand careers. This study was completed in 1998 and concluded that the reason for the decline in CTE courses was due to the job market not requiring those skills.
New forms of career and technical education need to emphasize academics and career training in electronics and computer fields because the job market has made a turn towards careers of a more technical nature. Social Class and Cultural Capital The theoretical framework of this study relies upon cultural capital theory. Cultural capital can be defined as “high status cultural signals used in cultural and social selection” (Lamont and Lareau, 1988).
According to Bourdieu’s definition, cultural capital “consists mainly of linguistic and cultural competence and that relationship of familiarity with culture which can only be produced by family upbringing when it transmits the dominant culture” 15 (Bourdieu, 1977). Cultural capital, according to Bourdieu, includes things such as going to museums, appreciating art and listening to classical music. “[Bourdieu] argues that individuals in privileged social locations are advantaged in ways that are not a result of the intrinsic merit of their cultural experiences.
Rather, cultural training in the home is awarded unequal value in dominant institutions because of the close compatibility between the standards of child rearing in privileged homes and the (arbitrary) standards proposed by these institutions. ” (Lareau, p. 276) In a dominant institution like education, the role of cultural capital translates to the practices of the school staff, teachers, organizational processes and authoritative relationships set in place as a method of exclusion for those who are unfamiliar with the institutional practices.
In the U. S., children from high cultural capital backgrounds, according to cultural capital theory, have been taught directly or indirectly the value of raising one’s hand to be called on, working independently on homework assignments, and possessing a sense of entitlement to resources and extra help from teachers and other figures of authority (Lareau, 2000). It is argued that “children from higher social locations enter schools already familiar with these social arrangements” (Lareau, 1987, p. 288) and therefore succeed at a higher level than those not familiar with these practices.
Being more familiar with the skills and knowledge valued by the dominant culture, students of the dominant culture are better able to adapt their skills to new settings to help negotiate their way to higher, more prestigious education and jobs. This creates a higher economic class position and allows their children to be exposed to the same culture, which is congruent with cultural reproduction theory (Aschaffenburg and Maas, 1997). 16 Bourdieu used the term “cultural reproduction” to describe the way society stratifies members of the population by reproducing the values, lif.