The state wanted to transform what is traditionally known as vocational education into broader career possibilities consisting of academic, workplace, and technical skills. The legislation mandates that Florida districts offer rigorous academic courses that meet, or exceed, state-adopted subject-area standards, lead to industry certification, and result in postsecondary credit where possible.

Now, the achievement of students who took technology courses leading to industry certifications suggests that Florida’s efforts are headed in the right direction.

“Florida’s efforts to strengthen CTE mirror a national movement in this direction, which was underscored in the 2006 reauthorization of the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act,” according to the report. “Hence, the findings may be relevant to a renewed emphasis on CTE that is under way now in many other states.”

The report examines the attendance and achievement of high school students who took at least one technology course leading to industry certification in the baseline 2007-08 school year (when the legislation passed), and in the 2008-09 school year (when Florida’s 67 districts began efforts to deliver those CTE courses).

Key findings

The study found that high school students who took at least one technology course and at least one industry certification exam had a better average attendance rate and grade point average than students with similar demographics who took no technology courses or exams during the same period.

Researchers also found virtually no difference in four-year college entrance rates among students who took at least one technology course and industry certification exam and those who did not.

“This seems to indicate that students who took technology courses and exams had the same opportunity to enter postsecondary institutions as other students,” according to the report.

The report notes that this positive relationship is correlational and not necessarily causal, but “given that attendance, GPA, and admission to four-year colleges and universities are important measures of high school success … this relationship warrants attention and further exploration.”

Researchers noted that students who took a technology course and an industry certification exam attended, on average, almost 17 more days of school.

“Attendance is one way that schools gauge student engagement in learning—and increased attendance can be seen as a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for improved GPA. Furthermore, attendance is of critical importance to school districts whose state funding may be dependent on average daily attendance,” the report says.

Florida high school students who took at least one technology course had an average GPA of 2.92, compared to an average GPA of 2.55 for students of similar demographics.