Work on the Margins: The Experience of Vocational Teachers in Comprehensive High Schools

J. W. Little, S. M. Threatt

A three-year study of "teachers' worlds" in five comprehensive high schools contributes to the evolving debate over what is and should be fundamental to secondary education. Through interviews, observations, teacher surveys, and analysis of teaching assignments, the study traces a steady erosion of vocational priorities and programs. Vocational courses in these urban and suburban schools serve as a form of "safety valve," absorbing increasing numbers of students who have been designated as "limited-English speaking," "special education," "remedial," or "at-risk." Confronted with a steady decline in staffing and course offerings, vocational specialists teach a "compressed curriculum" which displays only the most tenuous connections to work, and which does little to remedy the persistent dichotomy between theory and practice, or between work education and academic study. The decline of traditional vocational studies parallels a generally impoverished view of work in the content and organization of the academic curriculum.

MDS-166 / June 1992

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