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Vocational Education Column

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In visiting a handful of exemplary vocational-education programs, members of the Education Writers Association observed that many of the teaching and instructional trends emerging in vocational programs go to the heart of reforms being proposed for students in academic classes.

After interviews at a health and bioscience academy in Oakland, Calif., a vocational-technical high school in New Castle County, Del., a technical-arts school in Cambridge, Mass., and a high school in Rockbridge, Va., reporters concluded that each of the schools has made significant strides in similar areas.

In its report, "Learning Work: Redefining Success in Vocational Education,'' the åŸ÷ŸáŸ found that each of the schools has knocked down barriers between work skills and academics, made efforts to reduce class sizes and tailor instruction, applied academic subjects to work situations in curricula, increased involvement with the community and employers, and tested such new strategies as team teaching, alternative assessments, and cooperative learning.

"What is needed, some educators say, is a marriage--not a sibling rivalry--between academic and vocational education,'' the report says. "That is a far cry from the norm in schools today.''

The Education and Labor departments last week launched the first in a series of five national hearings on skill standards called for in the Administration's America 2000 education-reform plan.

About 16 people testified last week in Boston, offering their views on the need for industry-specific standards and how they should be derived. Officials said the hearings, which continue this week in Atlanta, are the first step in the process of setting standards that, along with the work of the Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, will inform educators on what is needed to produce graduates competent for modern jobs.

The hearings will continue on April 24 in Chicago, April 28 in San Francisco, and April 30 in Washington.

The Education Department's office of vocational and adult education has also been tapped as the initial pilot site for the "skill clinics'' called for in the President's education plan.

Workers in the office can visit the clinic, which is open two days a week, to use computer software and talk with a job counselor to determine their skills and interests, what jobs would be best suited for them, and what further training might be necessary.

The Education Department plans to expand the skill clinics for all of its Washington employees by the end of the year, a spokesman said.

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