Building a Preferred Future with Tech Prep Systems (MDS-713)

D. D. Bragg, C. L. Kirby, P. A. Puckett, K. A. Trinkle, L. Watkins

This document presents the perspectives, core concepts, and processes needed to develop a shared vision of Tech Prep. It strives to provide the basis for local practitioners to construct new Tech Prep systems that bridge the federal Tech Prep Education Act with the new School-to-Work Opportunities (STWO) legislation. To support that important objective, this document offers numerous practical ideas about Tech Prep planning and implementation. The first two sections focus on "Exploring Efforts To Restructure Education" and "Inspiring the Future." The third section on "Implementing Tech Prep Systems" focuses on processes to assemble key components into workable Tech Prep initiatives.

This publication provides a historical and philosophical foundation for new Tech Prep systems. In addition, it presents six core concepts that should be considered when developing any Tech Prep system. The six concepts are as follows: (1) Tech Prep should be grounded in an integrated and authentic core curriculum that spans the educational system; (2) Tech Prep should formally link (articulate) secondary and postsecondary education, but optimally it should link kindergarten through lifelong learning; (3) Tech Prep should be a highly relevant approach to teaching and learning, using the workplace and surrounding community to connect work-based learning to school-based learning; (4) Tech Prep should be an approach that focuses on outcomes and increased student performance; (5) Tech Prep should be an accessible and viable option for all students, not only the "neglected majority"; and (6) Tech Prep should be implemented with a highly collaborative approach built upon a network of people and organizations that form a local consortium. Processes used to create Tech Prep systems which embody these six core concepts should be well-organized, strategically planned, carefully implemented, and continuously evaluated. The later half of this report presents an extensive discussion of strategies to develop Tech Prep systems.

Ideas presented throughout this document are based on an exhaustive review of the literature on educational reform and restructuring, Tech Prep planning and implementation, and organizational leadership and change. In addition, the findings and recommendations of a national survey of local Tech Prep coordinators conducted by the senior author of this report and others (Bragg, Layton, & Hammons, 1994) are drawn upon extensively. This information is supplemented further with the ideas of seventeen leaders of the nation's Tech Prep movement. How were these seventeen chosen? Eight were the designated leaders of the U.S. Department of Education national demonstration sites. The other nine were nominated by these eight demonstration-site leaders or other local practitioners on the basis of their significant contributions to Tech Prep at the state and/or national level. Together, these seventeen leaders generously shared their ideas about Tech Prep through telephone interviews conducted in late 1993 and early 1994. (See Appendix A for the names and addresses of these individuals.) We are extremely appreciative of the ideas these experts shared with us--they were truly inspirational.

Like building a house, Tech Prep implementation moves through many phases. From the early stages of inspiration and design to the inevitable process of remodeling what has become outdated, both require a solid foundation, the coordination of many people, a heavy investment of time and money, and an ongoing commitment to improvement. We, the authors, aspire for Tech Prep to become a lasting structure, one able to withstand internal and external forces (e.g., shifting winds of reform, changing needs, evolving technologies). Of course, adequate time and the commitment of many diverse stakeholder groups will be required to ensure this sort of stability. The time required to build a quality Tech Prep initiative is extensive; some estimate five to ten years to make lasting changes in an educational system. However, the kind of action needed to reform education today seems more closely aligned to that of an Amish barn raising, a phenomenon that epitomizes quick response through teamwork, a crucial element of an effective local Tech Prep consortium.

The collective expertise of leaders from both the public and private sectors is needed to build Tech Prep. Individual talents and efforts must dovetail to create a unified vision of what an improved system of education can be. Goals, policies, and procedures must be developed and carried out to create a superior educational system, one that can ensure a brighter future for all students. Building that future will be challenging, yet it represents a goal all educators and concerned citizens should strive to attain. We hope this document helps you and your local consortium build your preferred future.

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