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12 Mar


One of a series of reports of research and scholary work completed by Penn State faculty and students about economic, demographic, and workforce problems, issues, and opportunities that affect well–being and prosperity in Pennsylvania and beyond.
Abstract:Research addressed the relative impact of vocational versus academic education on employment status. Data from the National Longitudinal Study Youth 1997 (NLSY97) was theprimary source of information. The group of black, Hispanic & other ethnicity is less likely to be employed rather than non–black, non–Hispanic group. A student whose curriculum included a combination of vocational and academic curricula had a greater chance of being employed than those that participated in an academic only curriculum. The group of black, Hispanic and other ethnicity within the special need student is less likely to be employed rather than the group of black, Hispanic & other ethnicity in total population. The possibility of employment for this group is weakened by virtue of having a special need.
Background:-This research studies the impact of high school curriculum, race, gender and special need classification on employment status. The researchers sought to understand if vocational education as a high school curriculum leads to better employment outcomes and whether race or gender influenced these outcomes. The National Assessment of Vocational Education (NAVE) Advisory Panel in its 2004 report for Congress found some evidence that vocational education improves the employment earnings of high school students but has no effect on improving academic achievement or college transition (NAVE, 2004). Another research study suggests that there were no differences inemployment outcomes between any curriculum type at the lower and middle literacy proficiency levels (Jackson, 1995). Research also indicates that the typical vocational student is more likely to be male, with English language proficiency, from lower income or rural schools, and with a special needclassification (NAVE, 2002). The researchers also sought to understand whether employment outcomes are better for the special need classification student as a result of vocational education. As you will see, not all the results were to the researchers’ satisfaction, however this project does serveas a launch pad for further research and study on the topic of the usefulness of vocational education for the special need student.
History of Career and Technical Education :
Career and Technical Education (CTE) gained popularity in the late 1960s and vocational high schools were built by a consortium of area school districts to provide work training opportunities for high school students. The NAVE Advisory Panel (1994) found that high school students who enrolled in vocational education were not preparing for college. The separation of work and academic curricula has existed since medieval times when menial or work tasks were given to peasants and the wealthy enjoyed the privileges of education (NAVE, 1994). Dividing curriculum into vocational and academic areas has been a characteristic of American education since the passage of the Smith– Hughes Act in 1917 (Gordon, 2002). The act encouraged the separation of vocational and academic training by allocating funds for the purpose of separating the curricula.
Early in the vocational school history, the word “vocational” was established as a negative connotation and community members often referred to the local vocational high school as “slow– tech”. In an effort to change the perception of vocational high schools the 1990s saw vocational high school leadership begin to remove the word “vocational” from their school names. Schools such as “York County Area Vocational–Technical School” became “York County School of Technology”. The words “career” and “technical” are now commonly used in place of the word “vocational” to describe work place training facilities. CTE continues to struggle with the perception of a school for the impaired or non college bound student despite the fact that today’s jobs are much more technically advanced than they were twenty or thirty years ago. Today’s Career Technical Center (CTC) requires a student with solid academic skills in order to prepare them for the high tech – high wage jobs of the future. Science, math and reading skills are more important than ever before in the history of the U.S and career technical education.
The skills required of the U.S. workforce have changed dramatically in the last thirty years and the U.S. education system is training students for jobs that do not currently exist. For some it is clear the bar must be raised in the U.S. education system. Research suggests that academics only or career training only is not the answer and that some combination of academic and career training is necessary to ensure a fully employed workforce (Gray & Herr, 1998). College is not the “only way to win” (Gray & Herr 2000) because more than half of the jobs of the future will not require a college education but rather will require specialized career training and skills. The National Assessment of Vocational Education (NAVE) in its 2002 report to congress reported that two–thirds of the U.S. youth do not obtain a four year degree. NAVE also reported that twenty–five percent of all youth goto work directly after high school (NAVE, 2002). NAVE also reported in 2002 that businesses frequently complain that young workers lack both general (literacy, numeracy, etc.) and specifictechnical skills.
In its 2002 report, NAVE reported that many different types of students are involved in career and technical education. A substantially higher percentage of CTE students are male, have low academic achievement and have a learning disability. CTE students tend to come from lower income or rural schools and are English language proficient (NAVE, 2002). CTE students continue to take less rigorous academic courses than their all–academic counterparts. NAVE (2002) also noticed that CTE students tend to take more vocational than math or science courses. School reform and exit– exams such as Pennsylvania System of School Assessments are forcing more CTE students to take math and science courses.
Career Technical Education suffers from notoriously low achievement scores and many CTCs have been put on improvement plans in an effort to raise the academic performance of their students. Federal and State legislation is creating a conflict of priorities for the CTC – academic achievement, technical skills, high school completion, postsecondary enrollment, degree completion and employment (NAVE, 2004). Is it really necessary to have good academic skills if one is training for a career in career such as welding, or automotive or other careers where college is not necessaryfor employment? The answer is a resounding “yes”! Jobs in welding and automotive have become extremely high tech and computer driven. Contributing to the perception of the “slow–tech” high school is the tendency of sending school districts to refer a disproportionally high number of special need students to the CTC. A regular academic high school is approximately 8% to 10% special need student designations. Special need populations in the CTC range from 30% to 40% of the total student population. This research project suggests that a combination of academic and career curriculum and not just academic or career only training gives the student a higher probability of being employed. Krei and Rosenbaum (2001) wrote that their research shows that high school counselors feel no responsibility for students’ career guidance and do not possess proper knowledge about employment tracks. Discussion with area guidance counselors indicate that there is a strong belief that the CTC is better equipped to handle the training needs of special need students. Non–career technical education instructors tend to believe that the CTC is hand–training oriented thus a sound or quick mind is not necessary. This phenomenon begs the question, “Does participation in Career Technical Education (CTE) lead to better employment outcomes for special need students?” Is there data to support the prevailing opinion that CTE is a better option for special need students? Studies show that students in high school vocational education were less likely to drop out and more likely to be employed Legislation certainly influences some guidance counselors as they seek alternatives for students that are not successful in the regular academic high school. A key objective of the Carl Perkins Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 2430, 2008) was to “integrate” academic and vocationaleducation. The School–to–Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (H.R. 2884, 1994) further emphasized the importance of education and work, provided funds for state and local projects to further enhance links between schools and workplaces. The CTC is sometimes a last ditch effort by guidance counselors to keep poor performing students in school and interested in achieving. It was also in the 1990s that U.S. Department of Education began to take an interest in the affects of vocational education and fundedfurther cohorts in the National Longitudinal Study. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Education was interested in funding the collection and coding of high school transcripts in order to answer questions about school–to–work programs.
Special Needs:The term “special need population,” is generally used to describe individuals who a (a) members of a minority groups; (b) limited English speaking and physically and/or mentally disabled,economically and/or academically disadvantaged; or (c) gifted and talented (Gordon 1999). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (H.R. 1350, 2004) was directly aimed at improving the transition from school to work for students with disabilities. This act created a renewed interest in transition outcomes and educator support for students with disabilities. Theprimary mission of IDEA was to improve the school to work transitions for special need students and may explain the tendency of sending school districts to send a disproportionately higher number of special needs than non special need students to the CTC. Further emphasis on transition of special need students to work was addressed in the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2005. The Perkins act and its subsequent reauthorization sought to fund career and technical education provided certain rules or guidelines were being followed. Perkins remains the single largest source of funding for vocational education by the federal government and requiresstates to match or exceed federal funding (U.S. Dept Ed, 2004). Developing a highly skilled workforce to keep America competitive in the global economy and providing lifelong learning for the workforce is essential (Robinson, 2007).
Method:Population & Sample:-The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) National Longitudinal Study Youth 1997 (NLSY97) examined in this study is designed to aggregate information about the transition fromschool to work. The NLSY97 is a survey over time of 8,934 youth from twelve to sixteen years of age as of December 31, 1996. The survey draws on two samples: a cross–sectional sample of 6,748students which is designed to represent the U.S. population born in 1980 through 1984, and a supplemental sample of the 2,236 students, which is designed to oversample Hispanic and Hispanicpopulation born in the same years. The sample of special needs student examined in this study was derived from the questions,“what learning/emotional problem does the student possess”, and what sensory problem does the student exhibit? The NLSY97 identified four categories of special need designations: learning disability or attention disorder (623 students), emotional, mental or behavior problem (250), mental retardation (21), and other (318). The NLSY97 also provides seven categories of physical impairment which might lead to a special need designation: blindness in one eye (29), blindness in both eyes (8),other vision difficulty (906), hearing difficulty (207), deaf (6), speech impairment (209), other (61). A special needs student was defined as a person who has at least one problem among learning, emotional and sensory problems (see Table 1). The NLSY97 data publically are available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website http://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsy97.htm.
Variables:-Dependent This study focuses on the employment of special needs student from among a variety of available information in the NLSY97 cohort. Employment status in 2006 is used as dependent variable for this study because it gives the student sufficient time to exercise their employment potential. NLSY97 cohort provides collapsed employment status recode: employment status during the week before the survey. Collapsed” infers the variable was reduced to a binary result. TheEmployment Status variable consists of four types of possible answers: employed (5544), unemployed (596), not in labor force (1153), and in active armed forces (207). The four possibleresponses were transformed into two categories: employed was coded as one and not employed including unemployed, not in labor force, and in active armed forces was coded as a zero.Independent Gender was considered as an independent variable. The male gender was coded as a zero and the female gender was coded as one. The researchers were interested in how employment status was affected by the gender of the student.Race or ethnicity was also considered as an independent variable. The researchers were interested in how race or ethnicity influenced employment outcomes. The Ethnicity variable in theNLS97 sample provided four groups: non–black/non–Hispanic, black, Hispanic, and mixed race. For this study the four ethnicity groups were transformed into two categories: non–black/non–Hispanic was coded as zero, and black and Hispanic, or mixed race was coded as one.
A key independent variable was the type of high school curriculum the student experienced. The variable “high school curriculum” was selected from the NLSY97 sample. This variableidentifies the type of course work the student studied during high school. The “high school curriculum” variable is derived from official high school transcript which identifies titles such asvocational concentrator, vocational specialist, academic concentrator, and academic specialist (U.S. Department of Education, 1999). This study aggregates vocational contractors or vocational specialist as vocational curriculum and academic contractors and academic specialist as academic curriculum.A student whose curriculum was academic was coded as a zero and vocational curriculum was coded as one. The composition of both academic and vocational curriculum was coded as two.In this study a special need student was defined as a person who responded as having at least one problem among learning, emotional, and sensory impairments. Non–special need students were coded as a zero and special need students as a one.
Analysis:-Logistic regression was used for a statistical inference to identify the independent variables that increase or decrease the probability of employment of special needs students. Point and interval estimate odds ratios reflect the likelihood of employment and are calculated by gender, ethnicity, and high school curriculum, and special needs status. A point estimate of the odds ratio is the anti–log of a logistic regression coefficient. An odds ratio is interpreted only when the 95% confidence interval ofthe odds ratio does not include the value, 1.0. If the confidence interval exceeds 95% there statistically is no relation between the independent variable (e.g. gender) and dependent variable (e.g. employment status). “Odds” means the ratio of the probability of employed to the probability of not employed. Odds ratios are interpreted as the odds of being employed given a unit change in the independent variable (e.g. gender, ethnicity, high school curriculum). Odds ratios represent the proportion of the probability of employed to the probability of not employed. For the purposes of this study, odds ratios are interpreted as the odds of being employed given a unit of change for the independent variable (e.g. gender, ethnicity, high school curriculum). This study also examined the interaction effect of gender and high school curriculum; and ethnicity and high school curriculum.
Results:-Shown in Table 1 is the frequency of NLSY97 students included in this study by gender, ethnicity, high school curriculum and special needs status. Six hundred and eight–three students(males: 56%, females: 44%) with special needs status were considered in this study. Sixty–six percent of the students were non–black and non–Hispanic, while black, Hispanic and other were thirty–four 34 %. Students without a special needs were 2,496 (males: 48%, females: 52%) and non–black andbon–Hispanic, black, Hispanic and other represented 59% and 41% of the sample, respectively.
Displayed in Table 2 are the odds ratios of employment in 2006 by gender, ethnicity, high school curriculum, and special needs status and for special needs students only. As for total sample,the group of black, Hispanic and other ethnicity were 21.8 % less likely to be employed rather than non–black, non–Hispanic group with 95% CI [6.6%, 34.5%] in 2006. A student whose curriculumincluded a combination of vocational and academic curricula had a great chance of being employed as 56.1%
The student of black, Hispanic and other ethnicity within the special needs students is less about 42.9% to be employed rather than the student of non–black and Non– Hispanic with 95% CI[16.9%, 60.8%]. This means that the possibility of employment for this group is weakened by virtue of having a special need.The difference between the special needs student who attended vocational curricula and who attended academic curricula for possibility of employment is not significant statistically. Also thedifference between special needs student who attended a mix of vocational and academic curricula and who attended only academic curricula is not significant statistically despite the fact that any student who attended a mix of vocational and academic curricula was more likely to be employed in total sample.
Discussion:-Career and technical education continues to evolve as educators struggle to train students for careers and improve academic achievement. The goals of career technical education continues to broaden as government mandates U.S. student achievement must increase. This research project reinforces the notion that vocational education will lead to better employment outcomes but only with a combination of academic and vocational training. As early as 1918, famous philosopher and educator, John Dewey advocated creating schools that taught both academic and vocational subjects. Dewey believed that separated vocational education would be fatal to democracy and would furtherincrease the notion of fixed social classes. It wasn’t until the last decade or so that educators began to accept the idea that academic training must also be a significant element of a vocational student’s training in order to ensure transition to work success. This study reinforces that a combination ofvocational and academic education increases the employment chances of a student. Literacy is also key to successful employment outcomes (Jackson, 1995). While males continue to be the majority gender in career and technical education this study shows that females tend to have better employment outcomes as a result of a combined vocational and academic curricula. The NAVE 2002 study found that special need students are more prevalent in career and technical education; therefore it is clear that special attention should be paid to the impact of a large special needs population on the goals of the CTC. Particular attention must be paid to the (Jackson, 1995) claim that no curriculum will enhance employment outcomes if a certain level of literacy is not obtained. The researchers of this study had hoped to show some kind of relationship to employmentoutcome for special needs student who were involved in vocational education but the sample was not significant statistically. Therefore, the study could not conclude or presume that vocational education improved or lessened the employment outcomes of the special need student. The study did concludethat in general, a student had better employment outcomes as a result of both academic and vocational curricula. The study also concluded that white students have better employment outcomes than black, Hispanic or non–black, non–Hispanics other than white. While the population of most CTCs is considered diverse there are certain populations that are not realizing the employment outcomes that white students’ experience.
Major reform efforts are under way which target accountability of the U.S. education system. Career technical education is caught in a paradox of multiple competing priorities and goals. What will be the consequences of new funding and accountability in the recently amended Perkins Act? How will the CTC evolve in the twenty–first century to satisfy the needs of its students, therequirements of employers and mandates of government? It is clear that examination and research of the data are necessary to understand the dynamics of race, gender, special need classification and curricula. It is possible that more studies must be constructed in order to fully understand the accommodations and capabilities of special need students in career technical education.
About This Report:-Institute for Research in Training & Development:-This report was prepared using the resources and expertise ofthe Institute for Research in Training & Development (IRTD;http://irtd.ed.psu.edu) and is one of a series of reports ofresearch and scholarly work completed by Penn State facultyand students about economic, demographic, and workforceproblems, issues, and opportunities that affect well–being andprosperity in Pennsylvania and beyond.
The IRTD is a research group of the Department of Learning &Performance Systems within Penn State’s College of Education.The IRTD was established by the Penn State Board of Trusteesin the mid–1980s.
During Spring 2006, David L. Passmore, Professor of Educationand Operations Research in the Workforce Education andDevelopment academic program, became the Director of theIRTD. Former and current graduate faculty members in the WFED program who previously held the post of IRTD Directorinclude: Thomas Chermack, Paul Krueger, William Rothwell,Catherine Sleezer, and, the founder of the IRTD, Gary Geroy.The IRTD is located in J. Orvis Keller Building on the University Park Campus of Penn State (see the for maps, travel directions, parking, and lodging information at http://www.psu.edu/ur/visitors.html). The main point of contactwith the ITRD is through David Passmore, 305D J. Orvis KellerBuilding, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802–1303, 814.863.2583, dlp@psu.edu.
Authors:-Ki Seok Jeon (kxj166@psu.edu; 814.865.9919;http://KiSeokJeon.notlong.com) is a graduate assistant assignedby Penn State Outreach to the IRTD during the 2009–2010academic year and is a doctoral candidate in the WorkforceEducation & Development program at Penn State. Jeon has heldpositions with KPMG Korea, CMOE Korea, and Dong GukSteel in Seoul. He served as a company commander, trainingofficer, personnel officer, and platoon leader in the Republic ofKorea Armed Forces. Mr. Jeon earned a bachelor’s degree innational security from the Korean Military Academy and anMBA, with a concentration in organizational behavior andhuman resource management, from Korea University.Angela F. Kern (afk119@psu.edu; 717–332–2498) is a Ph.D.candidate in Workforce Education and DevelopmentDepartment, College of Education, The Pennsylvania StateUniversity. Ms. Kern is also a fulltime computer networkinginstructor at the York County School of Technology where sheteaches grade nine through twelve. Ms. Kern also teachers adulteducation and serves as an adjunct instructor at the Penn State –York campus. Ms. Kern has an M.B.A in InformationTechnology (MBA 1998) from York College of Pennsylvaniaand a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration andComputer Science (BS 1986) from Millersville University ofPennsylvania. Ms Kern is a Certified Information SystemsSecurity Professional (CISSP), Cisco Certified Entry LevelNetwork Technician (CCENT), and CompTIA Network+ andA+ certified. Ms. Kern worked in the for–profit corporate worldfor twenty years in various capacities as a programmer analyst,manager and finally as a VP of the InformationTechnology division for two leading central Pennsylvaniafinancial institutions before embarking on a teaching career. Ms.Kern serves on the advisory committees of several localtechnical schools including YTI, and ITT Tech. She is chair ofthe PA State SkillUSA Internetworking competition.
David L. Passmore (dlp@psu.edu; 814.863.2583;http://DavidPassmore.notlong.com) is Professor of Education inthe Workforce Education and Development Program at PennState. He also is Professor of Operations Research in the dualdegree, intercollege Operations Research Program(http://www2.ie.psu.edu/or/index.html), Director of the Institutefor Research in Training and Development(http://irtd.ed.psu.edu), and a Professional Associate in PennState Management Development Programs and Services(http://mdev.outreach.psu.edu/).Passmore earned academic degrees from State UniversityCollege of New York at Buffalo (BS, 1969), Bowling GreenState University (MEd, 1970), and University of Minnesota(PhD, 1973). He has held appointments at the Harvard Schoolof Public Health, National Technical Institute for the Deaf,University of Massachusetts, University of Northern Iowa, St.John Fisher College, University of Texas at Tyler, andUniversity of Minnesota.
Passmore has advised a variety of corporate and governmentclients, including PECO Energy, Johns–Manville, Esso–Interamerica, Joy Manufacturing Technologies, LordCorporation, E–Systems, Woolrich Inc., Liquid Carbonic,CIGNA HealthCare, National Institute for Metalworking Skills,Campbell Communications, American Council on Education,Research for Better Schools, John F. Kennedy Jr. Foundation,Special Olympics, and the Pennsylvania Office of AttorneyGeneral.
The authors of this report are listed alphabetically andresponsible solely for the report’s contents. Suggested Citation & Availability The suggested citation for this report is:Jeon, K.S., Kern, A.F., & Passmore, D.L. (2010, June).Employment Status: The Relative Impact of Race, Gender,High School Curriculum, and Special Need Classification.University Park, Pennsylvania: Institute for Research inTraining and Development. (Available from Social ScienceResearch Network: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1628154)The Social Science Research Network (http://ssrn.com) link tohttp://ssrn.com/abstract=1628154 provides a report abstract anda hyperlink to initiate a download of an Adobe PDF(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_PDF) file that displays thisreport in a format that is suiTable for screen–viewing orprinting. The abstract includes a link to download the citationfor this report in BibTex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BibTex),EndNote (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endnote), RefMan(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference_Manager), andRefWorks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RefWorks) formats.

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