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Tech Prep/School-to-Work Partnerships: More Trends and Challenges (MDS-1078)

D. D. Bragg, P. A. Puckett, W. Reger IV, H. S. Thomas, J. Ortman

A few years ago, the National Center for Research in Vocational Education (NCRVE) published the results of our national study of Tech Prep implementation in the United States (Bragg, Layton, & Hammons, 1994). That report indicated that Tech Prep-a relatively new federal initiative designed to improve education by linking vocational subjects with rigorous academics and articulating to the secondary and postsecondary levels-had produced a number of promising trends, but that lingering challenges were evident. In 1993 and 1995, we surveyed local consortia to determine how Tech Prep implementation had changed and/or progressed over time. What we found was encouraging, but issues emerged. Between 1993 and 1995, the Tech Prep concept had spread to more schools and involved more students, but the extent to which it had produced changes in student outcomes was unclear. In 1996 and 1997, we conducted in-depth field studies in five Tech Prep consortia located in different regions of the United States to learn more about how various approaches to Tech Prep and School-to-Work (STW)-career-oriented programs supported by the federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA) that were designed to assist youth to transition from school to careers-were advancing together. Through interviews and observations, these field studies gave us insights into various facets of Tech Prep implementation, furthering knowledge about changes that are being attempted but also accomplished.

Throughout all of our research, our overall objectives have remained consistent:

Presented here are the methodologies and major findings of the 1995 survey and the five field studies. Throughout, comparisons are made to the 1993 survey and related literature on Tech Prep, STW, educational reform, and the like. Policy recommendations made by the local Tech Prep coordinators surveyed are reported at the conclusion of the report along with our own concluding remarks concerning the future of Tech Prep implementation in the United States.

More Promising Trends and Lingering Challenges

Reviewing the information we and others have collected since passage of the Tech Prep Education Act, it is evident that a great deal has been learned about Tech Prep implementation in the United States in a relatively short period of time. Still, with all that is known, important questions remain. When one scratches below the surface, what do we know about Tech Prep? What stands out as promising trends? The following are some of the most important trends:

Whereas these results are promising, lingering challenges remain:

Six recommendations were offered by local Tech Prep coordinators that deserve the attention of practitioners and policymakers at all levels:

  1. Continue a distinct funding stream for Tech Prep to protect and nurture fledgling but also maturing Tech Prep initiatives.
  2. Strengthen state and federal leadership for Tech Prep to ensure clear guidelines are provided to local leaders.
  3. Clarify the uneasy relationship between Tech Prep and STW by encouraging logical relationships between Tech Prep and STW policies at the state and federal levels.
  4. Broaden the concept of Tech Prep by adopting the view that Tech Prep should serve all students, avoiding targeting of the neglected majority.
  5. Increase the active involvement of key stakeholder groups such as academic faculty, postsecondary faculty, counselors, and business/industry by finding rewards and incentives to encourage the participation of these groups.
  6. Heighten awareness about Tech Prep. If the idea of Tech Prep has merit, as many believe that it does, it should become much more widely recognized and understood.

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