Who Participates in High School Career Academies?: A Descriptive Analysis of Six-Year Enrollment Trends in a Southeastern School District

Who Participates in High School Career Academies?: A Descriptive Analysis of Six-Year Enrollment Trends in a Southeastern School District

E. Daniel Cox (Career and Technical Education, Volusia County School District, DeLand, FL, USA), Victor Hernández-Gantes (College of Education/Leadership, Counseling, Adult, Career and Higher Education, Career and Technical Education, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA) and Edward C. Fletcher Jr. (College of Education/ Leadership, Counseling, Adult, Career and Higher Education, Career and Technical Education, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijavet.2014070105
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Abstract

In response to increasing high school graduation requirements along with emerging skills in the workforce, the focus of career academies has evolved from one of keeping students enrolled in high school through graduation to a more robust preparation for college and careers for all students. This new focus may have resulted in a demographic shift in the students participating in career academies. To that end, the purpose of this study was to describe the demographics of students who participated in career academies in one Southeastern school district over a six-year period from 2007 – 2012. Findings indicate that a gender gap continues to exist among career academies. Additionally, when compared to the population across the district's high schools, while the career academies are becoming more diverse, participation of minority groups in career academies still lags behind that of their Caucasian counterparts. Implications for administrators and future research opportunities are also articulated.
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Introduction

In response to new workforce skill requirements emerging over the past few decades, the goals and objectives of a “new vocationalism” shifted from specific training for work to a more rigorous academic/technical grounding focused on preparation for careers for all students (Hernández-Gantes, Phelps, Jones, & Holub, 1995; Kemple & Snipes, 2000; Levesque & Hudson, 2003a, 2003b; Levesque, Laird, Hensley, Choy, Cataldi, & Hudson, 2008;

Levesque, Lauen, Teitelbaum, Alt, & Librera, 2000; Silverberg, Warner, Fong, & Goodwin, 2004). The underlying premises of career and technical education (CTE) has emphasized an increased rigor in vocational programs, a shift to high-wage and high-tech career preparation, and increased integration with academic education to support further preparation for post-secondary education or work (Levesque & Hudson, 2003a; Levesque & Hudson, 2003b; Levesque et al., 2008; Levesque et al., 2000; Silverberg et al., 2004).

As a result of the shift to prepare all students for college and careers, CTE program areas experienced considerable enrollment transformations over the past two decades. While still popular in the mid-1990s, trade and industry related programs suffered a marked decline in enrollments, while at the same time, enrollment in programs focused on communications, health care, and technology nearly doubled (Levesque et al., 2000). This shift in enrollment led more students away from the general education pathway to one aligned with preparation for either college or work.

Historically, students considered to be low achieving and not headed for college following high school graduation were often tracked in occupational programs (Agodini & Deke, 2004; Agodini, Uhl, & Novak, 2004; Levesque & Hudson, 2003a, 2003b; Levesque et al., 2008; Levesque et al., 2000; Silverberg et al., 2004). As the field has changed in the last two decades with emerging program designs such as career academies, students participating in CTE programs have become more eclectic and diverse with nearly one in five students transitioning to post-secondary institutions earning a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (Silverberg et al., 2004). That is, students across the country were enrolling in more academic and college-prep courses due in part to increased high school graduation requirements (Levesque & Hudson, 2003b; Levesque et al., 2008; Levesque et al., 2000).

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