New Study Defends Role of Vocational Courses

By Thomas Toch — December 05, 1984 2 min read

Spokesmen for a national study of vocational education released here last week charged that recent school-reform efforts failed to acknowledge what they see as a legitimate role for vocational courses in developing students’ skills and knowledge. (See Education Week, Nov. 28, 1984, for the full text of the report.)

The 11-month, $225,000 study by a panel of 14 educators, university faculty members, and representatives from business and labor was sponsored by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education at Ohio State University, a federally funded organization.

Robert E. Taylor, executive director of the center, said at a press conference here that “many of the reports of other groups and commissions by and large did not comment on vocational education.” That lack of attention made an investigation of the role of vocational education in the schools “imperative,” he added.

Harry F. Silberman, chairman of the National Commission on Secondary Vocational Education, as the panel was called, and professor of education at the University of California at Los Angeles, noted that the report addresses 10 major issues.

He discussed two of them, the poor public image of vocational education and impediments to higher enrollments in vocational classes among academically talented students.

He cited increased graduation requirements in core academic subjects, the isolation of vocational courses in area and regional centers, rigid scheduling patterns in many schools, and a lack of adequate guidance counseling as factors that reduce student access to vocational programs.

Mr. Silberman noted that “there is a need to make vocational programs more rigorous.”

The panel makes a strong defense in its report, titled “The Unfinished Agenda,” of the role of vocational education in today’s high schools. It offers 33 recommendations, ranging from an end to the practice of offering students diplomas reflecting courses of study of varying difficulty to securing a place for vocational programs in comprehensive high schools.

The commission plans to hold six regional follow-up meetings in the coming months.

The other members include:

James Auerbach, staff representative, A.F.L.-C.I.O. Department of Education; Billy Castorena, principal, Alamogordo (N.M.) Senior High School; Jack R. Frymier, distinguished educator, Indianapolis Public Schools; Thomas Furtado, manager, employee development, United Technologies Corporation; Edwin L. Herr, head, division of counseling and educational psychology, ‘Pennsylvania State University; Marion B.W. Holmes, executive director for career and vocational education, School District of Philadelphia; Ruth P. Hughes, head of home-economics education, Iowa State University; R. Mac Irving, executive vice president, Frit Industries, Inc.; Carl McDaniels, professor of education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; E.D. Peeler, corporate director of labor relations, Genesco, Inc.; L. Allen Phelps, associate professor of vocational and technical education and special education, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana; Beatrice G. Reubens , senior research associate, Conservation of Human Resources, Columbia University; Larry G. Selland, state administrator for vocational education, Idaho.

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 1984 edition of Education Week as New Study Defends Role of Vocational Courses