Launching an Early College High School with an Emphasis on Career and Technical Education: An Analysis of its First Year of Operation Including Implications for School District Leaders




Hernández, Lee


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As the need for a skilled workforce increases (Legislative Budget Board, 2007), school districts seek to create alternative programs to prepare students for jobs in high demand. Districts work to develop an academic environment conducive to student learning and training for the workforce amidst budget constraints. The purpose of this study was to explore a district’s implementation of an early college high school with an emphasis on career and technical education (ECHS-CTE) that prepares students for college and career readiness. Two theoretical frameworks, Astin’s (1993) Input-Environment-Output Model and Mishan’s (1972) Cost-Benefit Analysis, were utilized focusing on the environment between two models; ECHS-CTE and traditional high schools. Cost-benefit analysis was used to explore the social and human gains (benefits) in the context of development and operating costs. An analysis of the school’s first year of operations was conducted using a one-way ANOVA to compare differences in academic achievement and student behavior followed by an analysis of resource allocations between the ECHS-CTE and five traditional high schools. Interviews were conducted with individuals directly involved in the development of the ECHS-CTE. A qualitative thematic analysis was used to explore specific programmatic features and student achievement outcomes that helped district administrators consider the cost benefits with opening the ECHS-CTE. Findings suggest no significant difference between the ECHS-CTE compared to the other five high schools with regard to GPA, state assessment scores, and attendance. A statistical significant difference in the number of CTE course credits earned existed. Differences in operating expenses and resource allocations also existed. Themes of: strong partnerships and the keys to success; obstacles; and perceived value emerged from the data. Despite costs associated with opening the school, participants anticipated beneficial gains of student outcomes and immediate employment opportunities. Beyond the financial cost to open an ECHS-CTE, it takes a committed school district, a supportive community, an open-minded college partner, and devoted industry leaders to foster an educational environment conducive to developing a strong workforce. Implications include recommendations for future studies to include longitudinal studies, case studies to include teacher and student perspective, and further exploration of the necessary partnerships.


A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fullfuilment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR of EDUCATION in EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.


alternative education, career and technical education (cte), college and career readiness, early college high school, skilled workforce



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