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Vocational Education

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Pennsylvania officials are calling attention to a surprising decline in vocational-education enrollment in an effort to persuade state school officials that stiffer graduation requirements have hampered work-bound students.

The Pennsylvania Council on Vocational Education says enrollment in vocational programs that train students for careers in health, agriculture, marketing, and technical fields has fallen by about 40 percent in the four years since the state boosted the number of academic credits required for graduation.

Harlan Giese, executive director of the Iowa Council on Vocational Education, says many states have seen enrollments plummet in recent years. Much of the decline, adds Mr. Giese, who monitors such trends for the National Association of State Councils on Vocational Education, has been attributed to graduation requirements that fill students' schedules with academic courses.

In Pennsylvania, where state officials are preparing to renew debate over what high-school graduates should know, vocational-education council officials say spreading the word about enrollment declines is the first step toward revitalizing vocational-education programs.

"We've had a lot of interest expressed by people in the education community, the press, and a number of state legislators," said Dennis Rhen, executive director of the Pennsylvania council. "Whether that will be translated into action is hard to tell."

The Pennsylvania data show a 37.8 percent decline in vocational-education enrollment, compared with a 9.6 percent drop in public high-school enrollment. The percentage of state students who enrolled in college increased from 42 percent in 1980 to 56 percent by the decade's end.

"The regulations helped to reinforce the feeling that the only successful high-school graduate was a college-preparatory student going on to postsecondary education," he said. "We hope that if we're not able to turn things around, at least they will not get worse."

For educators and administrators reeling from massive changes the Congress has outlined for federal vocational programs, the American Vocational Association has recently published a 173-page report that explains the new law.

"The AVA Guide to the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990" was prepared by the association's government-relations staff and analyzes the new act's program implications and funding changes.

Copies of the guide are available for $21.95 each, with a $4 discount for AVA members, plus a $4 shipping charge, from the American Vocational Association, Dept. 890, 1410 King St., Alexandria, Va. 22314.--LH

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