Published Online: February 24, 1999
Published in Print: February 24, 1999, as Vocational Education


Vocational Education

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Demanding More: The High Schools That Work reform initiative continues to show that schools can encourage vocational education students to take tougher courses and do well in them.

Results from a test created by the Educational Testing Service and based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that schools that used the High Schools That Work curriculum between 1996 and 1998 saw increases in their students' reading, mathematics, and science scores.

Graduating seniors who had taken at least four vocational education courses at 444 schools that participate in the program were tested both in 1996 and 1998. Over that period, the percentage of students who met High Schools That Work performance goals on the test climbed from 43 percent to 51 percent in reading, from 44 percent to 58 percent in mathematics, and from 38 percent to 53 percent in science.

Those increases corresponded with a growth in the percentage of vocational education students at those schools taking the challenging High Schools That Work curriculum.

"We literally seek to teach the [rigorous] academic core to all students that we have only historically taught to a few students," said Gene Bottoms, the senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, which administers the High Schools That Work program.

High Schools That Work's recommended curriculum includes four English courses, three math courses, three science courses, and four courses in a career or academic major--all on the college-preparatory level. The curriculum is intended to replace general-track courses, in which many average students have languished. Some 850 high schools in 22 states participate in the program.

At the 444 schools involved in the recent test, the percentage of vocational education students taking the recommended science curriculum increased from 38 percent to 58 percent. In math, the proportion rose from 66 percent to 79 percent, and in English, from 33 percent to 39 percent.

The results on the NAEP -like exam, which were released last month, follow on the heels of other recent recognitions for the program. High Schools That Work was chosen this month by the American Institutes for Research as one of three school reform initiatives, out of 24 studied, that improve student achievement. And the U.S. Department of Education recently gave High Schools That Work a grant of $1.5 million to implement its program in 25 selected high schools.

--Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 18, Issue 24, Page 6

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