The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 6, 2002
May 6, 2002
VOL. 31, NO. 33


CSOS Study Shows That Technical Education May Reduce Dropout Rates

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Adding some career and technical education to a high school student's day may reduce his risk of dropping out, according to Stephen Plank, a researcher at the Center for Social Organization of Schools.

Plank's study, Career and Technical Education in the Balance: An Analysis of High School Persistence, Academic Achievement and Post-secondary Destinations, analyzes the connection between the classes a student takes and the likelihood that he will finish high school.

Plank evaluated data compiled between 1988 and 1994 by the National Educational Longitudinal Study. He found that students who take three CTE classes for every four core academic subjects are the least likely to drop out. Being significantly above or below this 3-to-4 ratio increased the dropout risk. The relationship is strongest among students already at risk to drop out, such as those with poor grades.

"If it is indeed true that a middle-range mix of CTE and academic course taking can lower the dropout risk for some students, educators and policy-makers might be wise to encourage such a mix, even if it brings slightly lower standardized test scores in core academic subjects," Plank says. "Given the importance of a high school diploma in our society, slightly lower test scores might be an acceptable trade-off for higher graduation rates."

The study was funded by the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education. The full text of Plank's report is available online at A webcast summarizing the research is available online at