New RCU study: Career and technical education perceptions examined
Despite the proven benefits of career and technical education, many Mississippians—even some public-school educators—seem to have misconceptions about its worth in preparing the state’s future workforce.
“Confronting the CTE Stigma” is a new report developed from statewide surveys conducted by the Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State.
Julie Jordan, director of the RCU, said studies indicate that Mississippi students in CTE programs graduate from high school at higher rates than their non-CTE peers.
Additionally, CTE prepares students for middle skill-level jobs, “an employment niche where growth is projected to outpace both high- and low-skill occupations.”
In the first phase of the RCU’s study, slightly more than 400 Mississippi adults were interviewed about their attitudes toward CTE. Of that group:
— 45 percent were unable to name a single CTE program offered by local schools;
— 44 percent said students who were disadvantaged in some way — not college-bound, residing in poverty or having poor grades — would benefit most from CTE participation; and
— 48 percent agreed CTE could benefit the college-bound.
The survey’s second phase involved responses from nearly 2,360 Mississippi educators. Among this professional group, 20 percent were unsure whether their district offered CTE programming.
Educators’ answers indicated a link between lack of knowledge and lack of confidence in CTE’s quality, with those who knew less about their local CTE offerings more likely to believe that the quality of CTE is poor.
Mirroring findings from the general-population survey, educators viewed CTE as most appropriate for students with lower levels of academic achievement.
Though CTE graduates consistently go on to successful careers in fields such as health sciences, polymer science and business, the toll taken by incorrect public perceptions is reflected in stagnant or declining enrollment numbers.
While misbeliefs that current curricula are outdated or lack scholastic rigor may be causing parents and educators to steer college-bound students away, “we know CTE can have a profoundly positive impact on students’ futures as they prepare for college and careers,” Jordan said.
Jordan noted that the report “illustrates the work that needs to be done to raise awareness that CTE is for everyone and that Mississippi is a national leader in terms of quality CTE programs.”
In order to ensure the rigor and relevance of CTE in Mississippi, the RCU works with stakeholders to link CTE programs with local industry needs, create curricula that promote high standards and hands-on learning and provide professional development to CTE educators.
To view the complete research brief on public perceptions of CTE in Mississippi, visit https://issuu.com/rcumedia/docs/cte_perceptions_brief.
For more on the RCU’s work in Mississippi public education, see rcu.msstate.edu.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.
Kristen Dechert | Research and Curriculum Unit