Vocational Education

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Career Advice

Tougher academic standards and stronger partnerships with colleges and businesses will be central goals for the Bush administration in the upcoming reauthorization of the federal vocational education law, a senior U.S. Department of Education official told school leaders recently.

In a speech before the Institute for Educational Leadership last month, Susan K. Sclafani, the acting assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, offered a glimpse of the changes the administration is likely to seek from Congress.

Estelle Matthis

The law, known as the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, is set to expire this year. It isn't certain when Congress will take up the reauthorization.

"Perkins is going to focus on saying to states that you're going to do a couple of things," Ms. Sclafani said at the Dec. 12 gathering in Washington. "You have to develop standards and measures to determine whether the programs we're funding are worth funding. If you're still preparing kids for 1960s trades, ... that doesn't help them."

She also said the administration wants vocational programs to prove they are preparing students for postsecondary education, and to encourage those programs to seek cooperative ventures with colleges and industry organizations so that students can make informed choices about careers.

Vocational programs should be "working with employers, with union apprenticeship programs, with technical schools, with community colleges and four-year colleges," she said, "so the kids have the opportunity to see where those paths lead and decide which one they want to target."

Last year, the Bush administration said that it wanted to amend the federal vocational funding program for states and school districts by awarding money on more of a competitive basis, and by giving states the right to shift funds to cover Title I expenses. But Ms. Sclafani suggested that, so far, federal lawmakers have not been keen on such a funding shift.

"We're not sure we've got Congress on our side yet on that," Ms. Sclafani said after her speech.

—Sean Cavanagh

Vol. 23, Issue 18, Page 6

Published in Print: January 14, 2004, as Vocational Education

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