A Typology for Understanding the Career and Technical Education Credit-Taking Experience of High School Students

Publication October 2012

Academic requirements have increased for all high school students in the United States, including those considered CTE students. And research has shown that most students participate in CTE. Acknowledging these facts allows us to better understand the varied nature of students’ high school CTE credit-taking experiences.

Through the typology presented in this report, we have sought to provide a more nuanced way of exploring and analyzing the CTE credit-taking experience of all high school students, not just those traditionally considered CTE students. The typology provides a better framework for understanding CTE than the more traditional approach that classifies students as either academic or vocational concentrators.

We based this typology on data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education. Analyses of ELS:2002 data using this typology showed that the typology provides a more effective means of understanding the credit-taking experience of high school students than analyses based on dichotomous, vocational versus academic frameworks. Our analyses also showed that about 17% of all high school students complete high-intensity CTE in addition to their academic requirements.

Although CTE has historically targeted low-income and special populations, this study revealed high levels of participation among higher income students and those with parents with higher levels of educational achievement. Positive results were also found for academic outcomes, such as a high rate of high-intensity CTE participation among students who were also enrolled in advanced mathematics and, to a lesser extent, in advanced science classes.

Aliaga, O. A., Kotamraju, P., & Stone, J. R., III. (2012, October). A typology for understanding the career and technical education credit-taking experience of high school students. Louisville, KY: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Louisville.

Download the report (PDF)