Postsecondary education and career training is increasingly important, with growing polarization of the labor market and forecasts for increasingly skilled workers to meet the needs of the US economy, particularly in California. Additionally, gaps between various student groups in educational access and attainment continue to persist despite policies to increase equity in education. This work examines two approaches to improving college and career readiness for high school students: dual enrollment and career and technical education (CTE).There is growing interest in both dual enrollment and career and technical education as policy levers to improve education. CTE in California has been aligned to the Common Core curriculum, and career preparation is included in accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Preparation for the labor market is important for socioeconomic mobility, particularly for marginalized groups. However, there is concern about tracking students out of college preparation, especially given vocational education’s historical legacy. Social priorities have shifted from “college for all” to “career and college readiness,” though it is not clear if students are prepared for both trajectories. Recent statewide legislation has aimed to improve access to dual enrollment, especially for students that are not considered college-bound, but substantial gaps persist in dual enrollment access and participation, particularly by race. However, there is promising evidence that targeted dual enrollment programs are more equitable.
In Career and Technical Education in California: Participation, Access, and College and Career Readiness under Common Core and Multiple Measures Accountability, I utilize comprehensive student-level data on the population of California public school students to understand both the landscape of CTE enrollment and participation in California and access to CTE programs for various subgroups of students. I examine stratification across CTE industry groups, patterns of CTE participation across various school types, and access to schools with varying levels of CTE participation. I find significant stratification across CTE industry groups that follows historical patterns of tracking, suggesting continued challenges to utilizing CTE as a policy tool in efforts to improve college and career readiness and provide equitable educational opportunities.
In Dual Enrollment: How Opportunity and Participation is Distributed Across California’s Schools, I categorize schools by their level of dual enrollment participation and examine the distribution of students across schools with different levels of dual enrollment by student subgroup. I find stark disparities in access to high dual enrollment schools by race, for English Learners, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. I also find that charter and alternative or continuation schools often have high dual enrollment participation.
In A Foot in the Door: Growth in Participation and Equity in Dual Enrollment in California, along with my co-authors, I present data about which students are participating in various types of dual enrollment in the California Community Colleges–the primary provider of dual enrollment statewide, for the population of California students in the 2018-2019 graduating cohort. We also document how participation differs across regions, high schools, and course subjects pursued. We find that high school students represent a growing share of community college students and that there are an increasing number of course sections that serve only high school students. Gaps in participation rates across racial. & ethnic groups are much smaller for classes with only high schools students in comparison to the overall gaps in dual enrollment participation.