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Report Declares School-to-Work Program on 'Road to Success'

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The Clinton administration delivered its first status report on the School-to-Work Opportunities Act to Congress last week, calling the 2-year-old program a "success story in progress."

"It does show that school-to-work is real, and it's on the road to success, and it's having a great impact in America," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley told students from the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America at a breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill.

The 1994 law provides seed money for states and communities to build school-to-work systems. Theoretically, these differ from traditional vocational education in their emphasis on blending rigorous academic and occupational skills, their ties to postsecondary education, and their connection between learning at work and in the classroom.

The report highlights data collected through 1995 from 10 states that have received federal school-to-work implementation grants. To date, 27 states have received the grants, but most could not yet provide information on the participation of students and employers.

The report found that in the first 28 months since the act was passed:

  • Approximately 500,000 students in 1,800 schools have participated in "high intensity" school-to-work experiences in the 10 states. The report characterizes such experiences as combining academic and vocational instruction and tying work-based learning to classroom activities.
  • About 135,000 employers in the 10 states are participating in 210 local partnerships. The businesses provided more than 39,000 work-based-learning sites and nearly 53,000 slots for students.
  • Data from the first eight states to receive federal implementation grants show that for every federal dollar spent, $2 was raised from other public and private sources. This included new spending, funds redirected from other programs, and in-kind contributions, such as personnel and facilities.

Mr. Riley said actual participation in school-to-work efforts is much greater than the report reflects.

By the end of this month, the federal government will have spent some $304 million on grants to 27 states and 100 localities.

The report describes states as having made good progress in building a school-to-work infrastructure.

But state directors of school-to-work programs said many groups involved in the effort still not do grasp school-to-work principles. They also reported difficulty in creating and sustaining partnerships between public and private entities.

Model for Employers

A group representing 58 of the nation's corporate executives, meanwhile, has unveiled plans to aggressively expand business participation in school-to-work programs.

The "Employer Participation Model" outlines 56 ways for employers to become involved, ranging from providing internships for teachers to career days for students.

The model was created based on the experiences of companies that belong to the National Employer Leadership Council, which was formed in 1994 to promote business engagement in school-to-work initiatives. It was unveiled at a press conference here last week, which, not by coincidence, was National School-to-Work Week.

The new model focuses on four major ways businesses can become involved in job-training efforts. The report says they can support system development at the local, state, and national levels; provide information and on-the-job experiences to students; work with teachers to improve student skills and performance; and apply business practices such as total-quality management to education.

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