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Portrait of Voc.-Ed. Classes Offered

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Data from the government's major longitudinal study of high-school students confirm that several commonly held notions about vocational education are accurate, the National Center for Education Statistics concludes in a new analysis.

The statistics indicate, according to the center, that vocational-education classes are taken largely by ethnic minorities and students in low socieconomic categories, are taught mainly in public schools, and are offered predominantly by rural or small schools. But they also show that the vast majority of high-school students have taken at least one vocational course.

Seniors' Transcripts

The agency bases its findings on an examination of 12,000 transcripts of 1982 high-school graduates, which are part of "High School and Beyond," the massive federal effort to analyze the academic and career characteristics of the nation's high-school students. The nces found that while 27 percent of the graduates considered themselves in a vocational program, 95 percent had taken at least one vocational-education course in high school.

About 20 percent of all credits earned by the average 1982 graduate, the agency found, were in vocational education. That average was based on data for both "occupational" classes--such as agriculture, business, and trade and industrial skills--and "exploratory" vocational education--including industrial arts and consumer home economics.

Hispanic students in public schools earned 5 of their average 21.5 credits in vocational-education classes, the report found. Black students earned 4.5 of an average 21 credits in those classes, and white students earned 4.3 of an average 21.7 credits in vocational studies.

"These differences are due largely to the higher enrollments in exploratory vocational courses by Hispanic students," the report notes.

Low-income students earned 5.2 of their average 21.2 credits in vocational classes, according to the study. Middle-class students earned an average of 4.7 of their total 21.7 credits in vocational classes, and students in the upper socioeconomic bracket earned only 3 of their 22.1 credits in vocational-education courses.

Also, "students scoring in the lowest quartile on the cognitive-test battery earned more credits in both exploratory- and occupational- vocational courses (averaging 2.8 and 2.6 credits in the two areas) than did either students in the middle two quartiles (averaging 2.5 and 2.4 credits each) or those in the top quartile (1.6 and 1.3 credits)," according to the nces data.

Students who reported they were in the vocational track earned more credits, 6.5, for vocational-education classes than did students in the academic or general tracks, who averaged 2.7 and 4.6, respectively.

Geographically, graduates of high schools in the North Central region of the country and schools in rural areas earned more credits in vocational education than others. And the graduates of high schools with fewer than 600 students averaged more credits in vocational-education classes than did those of larger schools, the nces found.

Women in the vocational track, on average, earned more credits than men in vocational courses, 6.6 against 6.3. Likewise, in the general track, women on average took more vocational-education courses than men, 4.7 credits, compared with 4.5 for men. But in the academic track, men earned 2.8 vocational-education credits, while women earned an average of 2.7.

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