Vocational Education

February 21, 2001 2 min read

School-to-Work Results: A report that analyzes the results from more than 100 studies on school-to-work programs indicates they help reduce dropout rates, improve students’ readiness for college, and receive widespread praise from teachers and business leaders.

The National School-to-Work Opportunities Act, signed by President Clinton in 1994, provided seed money for states to set up programs such as job shadowing and student internships to help prepare students better both for college and a career. But federal funding runs out in October.

Researchers at the Institute for Education and the Economy at Teachers College, Columbia University, say that “School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education,” released Feb. 2, is the most comprehensive compilation so far of research examining the programs’ impact.

The 48-page report includes highlights from several of the more important studies. But the authors found almost every study shows students in school-to-work programs have better attendance than their peers not involved with such initiatives.

Career academies—a 30-year-old model that seeks to split large schools into smaller learning communities—show particular promise, the study’s authors say.

The Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., a nonprofit social-policy-research organization based in New York City, which began a 10-year look at career academies in 1993, so far has found that 32 percent of at-risk students who did not attend a career academy dropped out of high school compared with a 21 percent dropout rate for career- academy students.

Students involved in school-to-work programs, the authors found, are as likely to attend college as students who follow a more traditional academic path. In fact, one such study found that graduates of a California career academy were 40 percent more likely to enroll in a four-year college than other students in the same school district.

Katherine Hughes, a senior research associate at the Institute for Education and the Economy, said the report also reflects how the school-to-work movement has increased adults’ involvement in the nation’s schools. “This is the mechanism through which you see all of these positive results,” she said.

But the future of school-to- work programs, Ms. Hughes said, rests with local decision-makers.

“It depends on the states,” she said. “If they get federal funding through block grants, they will have to decide if this is where they want to go. That is why I think this report is so important. The skeptics have been proven wrong.”

—John Gehring

A version of this article appeared in the February 21, 2001 edition of Education Week