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Tracking and the Future of Career and Technical Education: How Efforts to Connect School and Work Can Avoid the Past Mistakes of Vocational Education

Despite the popularity of Career and Technical Education (CTE), concerns remain about the availability of resources for different CTE pathways, their relative status, and the degree to which adults working within schools are problematically sorting students explicitly or implicitly into different course-taking pathways. This brief examines the tension that has often arisen between the desire to link learning to post-high-school work and the desire to avoid low academic expectations for students perceived as unlikely to attend college. The authors explore the question of how schools might meaningfully support career exploration and preparation, while avoiding the tendency of prior vocational education to disproportionately sort students into distinct tracks by ethnic, racial, and/or socioeconomic characteristics. They conclude with recommendations for enacting CTE in ways that support the equitable distribution of educational opportunity.