Research has suggested a number of factors, at both the personal and institutional level, as to why students drop out of school. As the authors state, dropping out is the "culmination of disengagement" from school. Educators and researchers tend to focus on the process leading up to a student's decision to drop out rather than the act of dropping out itself. This study seeks to determine the role career and technical education (CTE) courses play in at-risks students' success or failure in school.
CTE courses, traditionally referred to as vocational learning, historically suffered from non-rigorous curriculums and lack of skills beyond entry level jobs. In the mid to late 90's an effort was made to improve CTE courses in hopes of making those students who took these courses more employable as well as diminish the negative stigma attached to vocational education. As a result, CTE courses have been designed to tie in traditional academic goals with more practical applications. The idea is to "forge...emotional and cognitive connections" with the curriculum, thus increasing motivation and ultimately academic success.
If you imagine a continuum with traditional academic courses at one extreme and CTE classes at the other, the authors believe a balance of both can lead to the greatest likelihood for academic success for students at risk of dropping out. Based on publicly available high school drop-out records, a 1:2 CTE to Core Academic courses ratio best suggests a student will succeed academically. The authors point to increased engagement and a greater understanding of how school will benefit a student in the workplace as reasons for this result.
A secondary focus of this study sought to determine if students older than their peers, a demographic that regularly suffers from higher dropout rates, would benefit from this same balance. Unfortunately, there was no correlation, suggesting that other factors contribute to this groups dropping out beyond changes in a curriculum.
With all the recent concern over the need for a revitalized working class, there is definitely an opportunity to get a head start in developing courses that will engage and motivate students who are more likely to take CTE classes. This article doesn't really address HOW to make these classes more marketable/engaging/worthwhile to students, so it seems like research and/or an analysis of relevant literature would be the next step in ultimately coming up with a solution to this problem.