JVER v26n3 - Editor's Note

Volume 26, Number 3

Editor's Notes

James R. Stone III
University of Minnesota

This issue comes as the reauthorization of vocational legislation is coming before the Congress. The current national assessment of vocational education shows that :

96% of secondary students take at least one CTE course.

25% of students take at least three credits of CTE in one area.

44% of students take at least three credits of CTE, but not all in one area.

CTE participation declined in the 1980s, but appears to have held steady in the 1990s. In 1982, students on average took 4.7 CTE credits. In 1992, students on average took 4 CTE credits and in 1998 that number remained the same.

Even though CTE credits are holding steady academic credits are going up, so CTE has a declining share of the secondary experience.

CTE students may be taking more academic credits, but they still are not taking as rigorous of courses as the rest of secondary students (US Department of Education, 2002 ). One can conclude from these data that secondary CTE is valued by many students in high schools today.

However, hard questions are being asked about the role of vocational education (CTE) in today's high school. With the current administration's focus on core academics, does vocational education and processes associated with it belong in today's high school? There are some who believe the answer is yes, but only in a narrowly defined role. For example, the Co-Director, American Youth Policy Forum stressed the importance of academics and argued that CTE is a strategy that can help to improve academic achievement (National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, 2002 ). She stated that at the secondary level CTE should be viewed as pedagogy that helps kids achieve academically. At the meeting of the National Association of State Director's of Career and Technical Education, the US Department of Education Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) cautioned that there appears to be limited data to support a strong link between vocational education and academics, improving drop out rates, or more effective transitions to postsecondary education and training. She argues that vocational education can be a viable option for helping students meet the new academic standards set by the administration. Another OVAE official stated that, "CTE needs to focus only on high quality programs that support the academic foundation" (For details on the remarks of all presenters, see National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, 2002 ).

The present thinking in Washington is out of balance with long held beliefs that the "world of school" and the "world of work" should be more fully integrated in order to properly educate and train young people for their adult roles in the work force (Byrne, Constant, & Moore, 1992 ; Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education, 1979 ; Congressional Research Service, 1994 ; National Panel on High School and Adolescent Education, 1976 ; President's Science Advisory Committee, 1974 ). The current Washington-think also ignores the research evidence about the value of high school CTE.

In this issue of the JVER, we explore some of the evidence about the value of secondary CTE. We begin with Plank's analysis of the impact of CTE on increasing high school engagement and reducing drop outs, on post high school trajectories, and on grade point average. Plank's analysis of the NELS:88 data shows that CTE has a pronounced effect on reducing the probability of dropping out of high school especially for low ability learners. He also shows that in the year following high school graduation, about 60% of CTE concentrators are attending post secondary education. His analysis demonstrates that dual concentrators perform about as well as academic concentrators on standardized tests.

Griffith and Wade studied a cohort of CTE students exiting from a suburban Washington DC school system for six years following graduation. They find that CTE program participants fared better on many employment outcomes than non-program participants, and as well as non-program participants on college performance. And, importantly, they performed nearly the same on college outcomes as did non-CTE participants.

Work and work-based learning, an integral part of high school CTE and emphasized in the school to work movement has long been assumed in many quarters to harm students academic performance, especially when it surpasses a 15 hour per week threshold (Stone & Josiam, 2000 ). Warren, LaPore, and Mare in their analysis of high school employment, find no evidence that working during high school has either long or short term effects on grades. It is pre-existing differences that differentiate those who work more or less intensively and it is the pre-existing differences that fully account for the association between employment intensity and grades in academic courses.

We then turn to MacIver and Legters examination of school to work partnerships. This work is instructive to those who seek to improve education by creating stronger links between the business community and the school community. They identified organizational, cultural, financial, and political conditions that severely limited the effort to effect change. They find that tensions in the initiative's core partnership between the school system and the employment development agency, due in part to unstable leadership in the school system; the persistence of multiple and divergent high school improvement efforts; and, confusion about how school-to-work activities fit into the state-level standards and accountability system all conspire to limit the effectiveness of this school improvement strategy.

Finally, Shumer provides the final in our series of invited discussions on the future of CTE. He offers a vision of CTE teachers working with their colleagues developing curriculum to ensure that young people have ample opportunity to do real things in the world. CTE educators can provide the settings that maximize the educational technology without sacrificing our understanding that electronic learning should never replace real-world environments. In the 21st century, CTE educators will wrestle with instructional design issues that attempt to take advantage of the power of computers, without sacrificing the power of experiential learning.

What value does CTE add to the high school experience? Evidence shows that it keeps youth in school. Evidence shows that a majority of CTE concentrators attend college and do nearly as well as the academic concentrators. Evidence shows that dual concentrators perform as well on standardized tests as academic concentrators. Evidence shows that working during high school does not cause poor academic performance. Evidence shows that building effective school-business partnerships is fraught with difficulty.

To this body of evidence, I add one more study. Mane ( 1999 ) analyzed three cohorts of students spanning the last quarter of the 20th century. He found that high school vocational education helped the non-college bound student start their work life more successfully. His analysis shows that economic returns to occupationally specific coursework rose substantially between 1972 and 1980 and remained high in 1992. Academic coursework for the non-college bound had a much smaller labor market payoff. He concludes that these findings contradict the often repeated claim that employers seek workers with a good general education and will teach the occupational skills necessary to do the job.


With this issue, I conclude my tenure as editor of the JVER. I wish to thank the many people who have helped me over the past two years and wish the new editor, Jim Flowers, success. The JVER is an important outlet for vocational educators to share their work and engage in scholarly debate. I encourage you to support Jim and the JVER by thinking first of the JVER when you are seeking an outlet for your scholarly work.

I wish to publicly acknowledge the many professionals who have supported the JVER through their service as reviewers. Their contribution of time and talent ensure that you continue to receive a quality journal.

Seong-O Bae, University of Minnesota
James Bartlett, Ball State University
Kenneth Bartlett, University of Minnesota
Kendra Boggess, Concord College
Harry Bowman, Council on Occupational Education, Georgia
Dan Brown, Murray State University
James Brown, University of Minnesota
Thomas Bruening, Pennsylvania State University
Mike Burnett, Louisiana State University
Janet Burns, Georgia State University
Susan Camp, State University of New York, Oswego
William G. Camp, Virginia Polytechnic University & State University
Marisa Castellano, Johns Hopkins University
James Christiansen, Texas A&M University
Laura T. Eisenman, University of Delaware
Curt Finch, Virginia Polytechnic University & State University
Wanda Fox, Purdue University
Howard Gordon, Marshall University
Kenneth Gray, Pennsylvania State University
James Gregson, Oklahoma State University
Marcelle Hardy, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada
Victor Hernandez, Florida State University
Barbara Hinton, University of Arkansas
Francine Hultgren, University of Maryland
Richard Joerger, University of Minnesota
Kamiar Kouzekanani, University of Texas, Houston
K. Peter Kuchinke, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Richard Lakes, Georgia State University
Theodore Lewis, University of Minnesota
Wiley Lewis, Colorado State University
Vernon Luft, University of Nevada, Reno
Richard Lynch, University of Georgia
Robert Martin, Iowa State University
Richard W. Moore, California State University, Northridge
Bonnie Nelson, Lewis-Clark State College
Henry O'Lawrence, Pennsylvania State University
Fred Reneau, Southern Illinois University
Jay Rojewski, University of Georgia
Gene L. Roth, Northern Illinois University
Sheila Ruhland, University of Minnesota
Curtis P. Scott, Altamaha Technical Institute
Jay Smink, Clemson University
Clifton Smith, University of Georgia
Bob Stewart, University of Missouri
Daisy Stewart, Virginia Polytechnic University & State University
Michael Swan, Washington State University
Kirk Swortzel, Auburn University
Hollie Thomas, Florida State University
Chris Zirkle, Indiana State University

The following reviewers were involuntarily omitted from our recognition in Volume 25. To them, too, our deepest thanks for their contribution to the JVER.

Carolyn Maddy-Berstein, Louisiana State University
Nick Elksnin


Byrne , S. M., Constant, A., & Moore, G. (1992). Making transitions from school to work. Educational Leadership , 49, 23-26.

Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education. (1979). Giving youth a better chance . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Congressional Research Service. (1994). School-to-work transition: Issues and legislation in the 2d Session of the 103d Congress (CRS Report for Congress 94-216 EPW). Washington, DC: The Library of Congress.

Mane , F. (1999). Trends in the payoff to academic and occupational-specific skills: The short and medium run returns to academic and vocational high school courses for non-college bound students. Economics of Education Review , 18, 417-437.

National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (2002, May). E-lert . Retrieved May 14, 2002, from the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium Web site: http://www.nasdvtec.org/reference/2002-May.htm

National Panel on High School and Adolescent Education. (1976). The education of adolescents . Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

President's Science Advisory Committee. (1974). Youth, transition to adulthood: A report of the President's Science Advisory Committee, Panel on Youth . Chicago, IL University of Chicago Press.

Stone , J.R. III, & Josiam, B. (2000). The impact of job quality on work attitudes and job behaviors. Journal of Vocational Education Research , 25, 532-574

US Department of Education (2002). National Assessment of Vocational Education: Evaluation plan . Retrieved April 30, 2002, from the US Department of Education Web site: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/PES/NAVE/evalplan/