Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) recently released its 48th annual poll on the public’s attitude toward public schools. While the survey was not limited to questions about CTE and workforce development, the results demonstrate overwhelming public support for career education and skills-based learning.
The poll, which sampled over 1,200 adults in all 50 states, showed that 90 percent of Americans believe that developing good work habits should be an “extremely” or “very important” objective for local public schools. That was the top response to the question, which underscores CTE’s importance and the significant role it has to play in fully accomplishing what Americans most widely perceive to be an overall public school objective.
When asked what they believe to be the main purpose of public education, 25 percent of Americans said preparing students for work. Others ranked preparing students academically and to be good citizens as the main purpose. While 25 percent may appear low, as PDK CEO Josh Starr explained, “With the right curriculum and pedagogy, these purposes [of public schools] don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” and that “…the standards and test-based reforms of the past 16 years have addressed only part of what the public wants.” In other words, a variety of responses to this question all lead to the same conclusion: There is substantial support for robust, comprehensive CTE programs as part of a student’s overall education because CTE prepares students not just for the workforce, but also for higher education.
In fact, ACTE has previously documented how CTE prepares students academically, outlining that “the average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to the average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent.” Further, as this ACTE infographic shows based on research from the Southern Regional Education Board, “80 percent of students taking a college prep academic curriculum with rigorous CTE meet college and career readiness goals, compared to only 63 percent of students taking the same academic core who did not experience rigorous CTE.”
Lastly, the poll shows that the general public ranks enhancing and expanding CTE programs as a top school improvement priority. When asked if they would prefer schools offer more “career-technical or skills-based classes” instead of more “honors or advanced academic classes,” more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said improving CTE options is more important. (It’s worth noting that as outlined above, CTE is certainly not inconsistent with advanced academic classes, and it includes rigorous coursework often used to prepare students for postsecondary education.)
Ultimately, ACTE believes that to prepare students for a variety of career and academic paths, high-quality CTE programs should be available and accessible to all. Based on the poll results, Americans clearly agree.
CTE Policy Watch: A blog for CTE advocates