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Linking the NCTM Standards to School-to-Work Reform

V. Hernández-Gantes, L. A. Nieri

An unlikely equation is in the making. The premises underlying both mathematics and vocational-technical education reform movements present a historical opportunity for developing integrated curriculum guided by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards. The common grounds provide great opportunities for collaboration. Both movements aim at providing all students with challenging curriculum and learning required in today's world. The questions are "What are the characteristics of promising programs engaged in bridging these two reform movements?" and "What can we learn from these programs to inform the development of rigorous integration efforts?" This study addresses these questions by building a comprehensive understanding of integrated program development and approaches to linking the NCTM Standards and mathematics/career curricula. Through a national survey of programs featuring mathematics/vocational-technical integration, four promising programs were identified (three high schools and a community college). Case studies of these promising sites were conducted to study program development and the extent to which the NCTM Standards guided local efforts.

Study findings suggested that linking the NCTM Standards to emerging career-oriented curriculum is not a simple process requiring pedagogical changes only. It is a far-reaching enterprise challenging educational leaders to engage in serious comprehensive restructuring involving curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Organizational and management changes are also necessary to support more active collaborative efforts and shift from traditional ways of thinking about educational systems. Consistent with research on organizational restructuring, the following findings highlight a framework for linking the NCTM Standards to curriculum featuring mathematics in realistic contexts.

Managing Change

Moving Toward Authentic Instructional Practices

Building Institutional and Community Support

Fostering Interdisciplinary Teacher Collaboration

Survey information suggested that the extent and nature of efforts linking the NCTM Standards and school-to-work reform are weak and slowly evolving. This process appears to be very complex, requiring deep changes and radical shifts from traditional practices supporting education systems. However, drawing from the experience of case study sites, we were able to identify a promising framework for development of effective integrated efforts featuring mathematics in occupational contexts. This framework is supported by related research on the restructuring of educational organizations and can be useful for practitioners, administrators, and policymakers.

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