MassBudget: Study shines new light on performance of vocational schools
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
Study Shines New Light on Performance of Vocational Schools
It is no longer news that students who attend high-quality career and technical education programs in Massachusetts also perform well academically and are more likely to graduate from high school. What has remained unknown is whether the impressive outcomes in these programs are due to what takes place inside these schools or merely reflects differences in the backgrounds and motivations of students who enter the programs.
A MassBudget policy brief summarizes research that sheds new light on that question. Shaun M. Dougherty at the University of Connecticut takes advantage of a natural experiment comparing virtually identical groups of students who attend vocation schools with those who don't. The careful study compares students who scored just well enough on entrance exams to attend Massachusetts' regional vocational and technical high schools with other students who scored barely under the threshold and weren't admitted due to lack of available space.
Students attending the regional vocational schools show substantially higher probabilities of persisting in and graduating from high school. They are more likely to earn industry-recognized credentials. They score just as well on the MCAS as students who also applied and just missed getting in.
MassBudget earlier this year examined the common features of effective career, vocational, and technical education programs: greater individualized attention, state-of-the-art facilities and equipment; partnerships with outside organizations and employers, and integration of quality academics with vocational training.
This new paper presents important evidence that the schools studied are engaging students in ways that make it more likely that they will graduate and develop career specific skills and that they are doing so in ways that don't have a negative effect on academic achievement.
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) produces policy research, analysis, and data-driven recommendations focused on improving the lives of low- and middle-income children and adults, strengthening our state's economy, and enhancing the quality of life in Massachusetts.
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