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7.5: How can we prepare all students for life after high school?

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    By: Cassaundra Lewis

    I. Introduction

    Every year thousands of students graduate from high school and go on to college. Every year hundreds are not as successful. What can be done to assure that more high school students go on to college? What can we do to prepare students for life after high school? The United States has been debating these questions not only on state levels, but national as well. In this article I will discuss some of the benefits, hindrances, advances, and the content of vocational education and college preparation courses.

    II. College Prep vs. Vocational Education

    First we should define college preparation and vocational education. College preparation is a course or series of courses that help students adjust to many college-level requirements. William Tierney writes, “Important objectives of most programs are the smoothing of the transition from school to college, improvement of study habits, increase of general academic readiness, and expansion of academic options” (Increasing Access to College, 2002, pg 3). Vocational education is a course or series of courses that give students work related experience to express the nature of careers and help them learn skills that will assist towards careers in the future. According to Unger, “the basic purpose of vocational education is to get a job” (But What If…, 2006, pg 33). “In no other area has greater emphasis been placed upon the development of curricula that are relevant in terms of student and community needs and substantive outcomes.” (Curriculum Development, 1999, pg 3).


    Did You Know…?

    Did you know…

    Education for work began 4,000 years ago? According to Finch, “(the) earliest type of vocational education took the form of apprenticeship” (Curriculum Development, 1999, pg 4).

    III. Main Targets of College Prep and Vocational Education

    One of the main targets of college preparation courses are low-income students and minorities, who make up a very small percentage of students attending both two and four year colleges directly after high school (Preparing for College, 2005, pg 3). “Educational institutions, state and federal governments, and local communities have committed significant resources to the development of a wide array of outreach activities designed to identify and assist underrepresented students in their pathways to college” (Preparing for College, 2005, pg 1). Vocational education targets those who are even less likely to attend college immediately after high school. “Millions of students all over the world are not suited for and have no interest in traditional academic schooling—which is why alternative career education was developed: to teach students the skills they need to get a good job” (But What If…, 2006, pg 4). Both college prep and vocational education attempt to enlighten students about career choices and assist them with the transition from high school into the adult world.

    IV. Positives and Negatives in College Preparation

    According to Anne Lewis, of the Education Digest, “more students are taking upper-level math and science classes and more are enrolled in Advanced Placement classes” (College Prep, 2004, paragraph 1). By this, she means that more students are enrolled in classes to help them prepare for college. She goes on to state, unfortunately, “the likelihood of ninth-graders completing high school and enrolling in college by age 19 (…, having graduated from high school within four years and directly entered a higher education institution) has declined”(paragraph 2). Another major negative in college preparation is that the population targeted is not always the one assisted. Tierney writes, “Programs such as MESA, Upward Bound, AVID, (etc.)… are well intentioned, (but) minority students remain underrepresented on college campuses”(Preparing for College, 2005, pg 1).


    Did You Know…?

    Did you know…

    The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education grades each state, on a scale of A to F, on ability to effectively prepare students for college? Seven states received an “A,” Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts (who scored the highest), Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Utah. Louisiana and New Mexico were the only states to receive a “F”(College Prep, 2004, paragraph 7).

    V. Positives and Negatives in Vocational Education

    There are many benefits of vocational education. According to Unger, “Employers generally respect the credentials of graduates from vo-tech schools, which usually have strong job placement services and close ties with employers. Vo-tech students emerge stronger in academics as well, because students learn English, math, science, and other subjects in conjunction with their vocational education and, therefore, find these areas more interesting”(But What If…?, 2006, pg 20). Two negatives associated with vocational education are that, “Unfortunately, there are only about 325 vo-tech schools across the United States” and there is a rising inability to keep students interested (But What If…?, 2006, pg 20).


    Did You Know…?

    Did you know…

    “It’s easy to get into college, but not easy to finish and graduate? More than 40% of students who enroll in American colleges and universities quit without graduating” (But What If…, 2006, pg 3).

    VI. Curriculum Content

    What all is included in the curriculum for college preparation and vocational education? What factors help in considering whether or not a program should be added or subtracted? “Curriculum materials are resources that, if used properly, can assist an instructor in bringing about an intended desirable behavior change in individual students” (Curriculum Development, 1999, pg 208). Unfortunately, there is no fool proof way of being able to tell what is going to help and what isn’t. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing what programs to keep and eliminate (Increasing Access to College, 2002, pg 3). As far as college preparation is concerned, a lot of the learning occurs in advanced classes. Many different approaches are used, such as computer-based assessment and writing assessment. With vocational education, you must determine: What will the student want to study? What does the community need as far as work experience? What will motivate the students toward life after high school (Curriculum Development, 1999, pg 92)?

    VII. My Personal Experience with College Preparation and Vocational Education

    While I was in high school, I was fortunate enough to experience both college preparation and vocational education. In my opinion, college preparation did very much to help me familiarize myself with what college would actually be like. I attended all honors classes and college preparation meetings. During my time as a vocational education student, I had hands on job training and was able to get my license as a cosmetologist when I graduated from high school. Vocational education did just as much for me on an overall level as college preparation. I do understand that not everyone was as fortunate as I and may not have had the same type of support that I received. One contributing factor, that is very often overlooked, is the influence of home life on attending college directly after high school.

    VIII. Conclusion

    In conclusion, college preparation courses and vocational education courses are both designed to promote success in the community but use different avenues. College preparation is focused on getting students to college. Vocational education is focused on providing an alternative to a college education for those who might not be as interested capable. When used properly and effectively, these means of education can provide options after high school for all students.

    IX. Resources

    Law, C. J. (1994). Tech Prep Education: A Total Quality Approach. Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing Company.

    Finch, C. R., Crunkilton, J. R. (1999). Curriculum Development in Vocational and Technical Education: Planning, Content, and Implementation (5th ed.). Boston: Viacom Company.

    Walter, D. M. (1992). Tech Prep: Challenges and Opportunities For Community Colleges. Southern Association of Community, Junior, and Technical Colleges (SACJTC) Occasional Paper, 10, 3-8.

    Lewis, A. C. (2004). College Prep. The Education Digest, 70, 69-70.

    Tierney, W. G., Corwin, Z. B., and Colyar, J. E. (2005). Preparing for College: Nine Elements of Effective Outreach. New York: State University of New York Press.

    Tierney, W. G., Hagedorn, L. S. (2002). Increasing Access to College: Extending Possibilities for All Students. New York: State University of New York Press.

    Unger, H. G. (2006). But What If I Don’t Want to Go to College? New York: Checkmark Books.