High School CTE Course Taking in Washington State: An Overview Focused on Access and Equity

What are the demographic characteristics and post-high school activities of Washington public high school students who are CTE concentrators?
February, 2023
February, 2023

As the knowledge-based economy is growing globally, jobs in high-technology fields are expanding in the job market. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Career and Technical Education (CTE) coursework is designed to prepare students for college, careers and to challenge race and gender inequity patterns within professions. In Washington, CTE programs are organized into career clusters comprising jobs and industries related to skills or products. The state of Washington has adopted 16 career clusters and in this study eight career clusters are categorized as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM and STEM related) fields and eight as non-STEM fields. Washington high school graduation requirements include one credit of "occupational" education. As a result, nearly all graduates take at least one CTE course. However, CTE concentrators are students who enrolled in at least two credits in a single career cluster within their four-year high school career.

This study aims to describe the characteristics of Washington public high school students who are CTE concentrators and their post-high school activities, including postsecondary enrollment and participation in apprenticeships. Additionally, this study examines students’ concentrator status by career cluster, indicating a focus on STEM or non-STEM careers. This study analyzes data from five cohorts of first-time ninth-graders between the 2011 and 2015 school years who graduated on time and obtained a high school diploma between 2014 and 2018.

Key findings:

  1. Males are more likely than females to enroll in courses in the STEM career cluster.
  2. Asian students are more likely to enroll in courses in STEM career clusters, while Black students are less likely to enroll in courses in STEM career clusters.
  3. Other than race and gender, there are no other differences between the students’ characteristics and course enrollment in STEM and non-STEM career clusters.
  4. A higher percentage of students who are CTE non-concentrators are enrolled in schools in the rural school district than CTE concentrators, which matches the overall high school enrollment pattern.
  5. Among CTE concentrators, a higher rate of students in rural school districts enrolled in STEM career cluster courses than in non-STEM career clusters.
  6. College enrollment and apprenticeship participation are similar between CTE concentrators in STEM and non-STEM career clusters.