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UT’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, in partnership with Georgia State University and the Tennessee Department of Education, will be researching the effects of career technical education (CTE) programs in K–12 schools to share with policymakers across the country.

The three-year project, funded by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, will create the Career and Technical Education Policy Exchange (CTEx), a multistate lab dedicated to providing actionable evidence-based information to local, state, and national policymakers. The lab will be housed at Georgia State.

“Career and technical education is a large and growing part of K–12 education, but the research base on career technical education is thin. There is a real opportunity and a growing need for evidence-based policy and practice to help support CTE students, teachers, and programs,” said Celeste Carruthers, the Ed Boling Faculty Research Fellow and an associate professor with the Boyd Center and the UT Department of Economics. “I am delighted to put heads together with the Tennessee Department of Education and add to what we know about CTE, and I am grateful to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and colleagues at Georgia State University for assembling and supporting this team.”

Over the past decade, enrollment in career technical education programs has grown because of the labor market demand for skilled workers and interest in both college and career readiness. There are many technical education models and programs, but educators know very little about how well these programs work. Other partners involved with CTEx include school districts in Atlanta, CTE systems in Arkansas and Michigan, and researchers from Georgia State University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Michigan.

“More students enroll in CTE courses during high school than in any other subject except language arts and math,” said Tim Sass, economist and Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State University. “We want to understand what determines quality in the CTE courses and how to improve it. We also want to know how participation in these courses may affect students’ later education choices. For example, are they more or less likely to enroll in postsecondary education?”

As part of the partnership, the Tennessee Department of Education will hire a research analyst who will inform policy and practice in CTE. The department is one of the first state agencies to establish such a position, if not the first.

“This initiative complements and builds upon the work already set out by the department’s strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, which includes a strong focus on developing postsecondary and career-ready graduates,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. “We are excited to partner with Dr. Carruthers and the Boyd Center to gain further understanding on how career and technical education can continue to provide our students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the future.”

The Boyd Center is housed within UT’s Haslam College of Business.


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