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Half of Schools Found Not Monitoring Voc.-Ed. Students

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WASHINGTON--About half the nation's high schools fail to track whether vocational students find jobs or continue their education after they graduate, according to a report by the General Accounting Office.

The interim report, released last month, is part of a four-year study mandated by Congress to assess changes in vocational education stemming from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act Amendments of 1990.

The law tries to improve technical training by requiring program assessments, a better integration of vocational and academic curriculum, and stronger ties to postsecondary institutions.

The G.A.O.'s survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,400 public high schools and their school districts found that educators have begun to make changes to comply with the law, such as upgrading teacher training and improving curriculum.

But, the report concludes, schools still have a long way to go.

Although many states reported that they were planning to use data on how students fared after graduation to help evaluate vocational programs, for example, about half the schools surveyed did not keep such data in 1990-91.

The study also found that many districts failed to concentrate their vocational funds on programs that serve the highest concentrations of poor, disabled, and language-minority students, as required by law.

In part, this was because 80 percent of the districts surveyed had only one high school. But 40 percent of those with six or more high schools also failed to concentrate their monies the year after the amendments were passed.

Special Groups Participate

On a more positive note, the study found that the law's elimination of funding set-asides for disadvantaged students and other "special populations'' has not adversely affected those groups' participation in vocational programs.

In both the year before and after the act was passed, poor, disabled, and limited-English-proficient students participated in vocational education at rates equal to or higher than the general population.

Half the districts surveyed said they expanded supplemental services for such students the year after the law was passed, while 10 percent cut services.

Copies of the report, "Vocational Education: Status in School Year 1990-91 and Early Signs of Change at Secondary Level'' (G.A.O./H.R.D. 93-71), are available without charge from the U.S. General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20884-6015; (202) 512-6000.

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