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The Future of Vocational Ed


President Bush is proposing to eliminate the entire $1.3 billion federal vocational program in his fiscal 2006 budget, arguing that it has yielded "little or no evidence of improved outcomes," despite decades of federal spending.

Backers of vocational programs counter that many assessments of voc. ed. are outdated and undersell the benefits that trade-oriented classes offer students at risk of dropping out of high school.

Does career and technical education still have a place in today's education landscape? How should these programs be funded?


Bush's efforts to eliminate vocational education is a proposal that smacks of the "Let Them Eat Cake" mentality. Only, if Bush has his way, children who can't pass the do-or-die tests put before them and who are pushed out of school as a result, will not be able to earn a crust of bread.

Until this latest deficit-reduction proposal emerged from the most extreme right wing President this nation has ever seen, Vocational Education remained the only saving grace for students who were never going to go to college or reach the absurd and near-impossible, experimental standards set by Bush and Clinton under the so-called No Child Left Behind Act.

This proposal is just another step in the drive toward privatization of public education. Not only does Bush not want disadvantaged and poverty-stricken children to go to college (hence the eliminating, high stakes and standardized tests) but he also does not want government to pay for public education.

On what does he base his decision to eliminate vocational education? Please don't tell me it is another right-wing sponsored think tank or non-profit.

And, by the way, Education Week needs to stop believing and taking the word of states, like Louisiana, where politicians crow about 'significant progress' when they are talking about a 1-5 percent increase in test scores or school performance scores. Check the failure rates of eighth graders and the graduation rates.

Did your magazine notice that Louisiana added a non-existent scoring level...'approaching basic' to its high stakes testing scoring rubric? A child only has to get 30-39 percent of answers correct to score at this level. For basic, a student must get 40-49 percent of test questions correct. Both of those levels constitute an "F" by any measure.

Eighth graders who score approaching basic, in either ELA or Math, and basic in one or the other subject are promoted. So much for ending social promotion.

Yes, Louisiana, where I live, has an accountability program in place, for which Education Week gave the state an "A", but the only ones being held accountable are the children.

So many eighth graders are flunking out that the BESE here created a "Pre-GED" Skills Option Program that is grounded in vocational education. Bush's education cut slams the door on the only hope for "C" students such as himself.

Nonetheless, NCLB is a sham. There is no real school choice. Politicians are judging students' school performance, not educators. There is no parental input.

Vocational Educational is the last hope for thousands of kids who won't measure up to the preemptive college prep curriculum served up by the NAEP. Bush's vocation education cut will doom these youth to lives of abject poverty and worse. They will become members of the working poor, if they're lucky. Otherwise, we will witness a resurgence in the welfare state such that we have never seen before.

Why does this sound like an agenda/recipe for creating a master race? The parallels between Hitler and Bush are astounding. Like Hitler, Bush wants to weed out the alleged 'inferior' and elevate the best and brightest.

Bush may not be concerned with creating the perfect race (or is he?) but he definitely is about giving to the haves to the detriment of the have nots.

The education cuts he has proposed are just more steps in the class warfare he initiated when he took over the White House.

In Education today, as it is in the Iraq War, Bush's agenda is more about expanding corporate welfare, robbing the poor to pay the rich, than about spreading democracy. He is more interested in bailing out the stock market with social security dollars than in building schools, providing books, and ensuring that America's children have a chance to earn the American dream.

Bush's $15 billion education budget pales in comparison to the $186 billion he has devoted to the deadly and destructive program he is waging in Iraq in the name of freedom.

Every contractor, every weapons manufacturer, every oil company, every test manufacturer and textbook publisher should have to pay dedicated taxes that will be used at the school site level to educate and prepare American students to become productive citizens.

To do less is to create a permanent violent underclass that turns upon itself, before spreading to the ivory towers and gated communities.

Someone should tell Bush that "Charity Begins at Home."

C.C. Campbell-Rock
Parents for Educational Justice
New Orleans, Louisiana
(504) 948-6250 (h)
(504) 528-3805 (w)

Vocational/career education IS working and should be viewed as a critical part of our strategic plan for education's future. AND, we have a lot or work to do to integrate the "vocational" mission with the "college prep" mission of K-12 education. For example, vocational curricula and instructor training/credentialing must focus on literacy standards, critical thinking, reading comprehension, etc. We must also guard against the traditional "tracking" that is associated with vocational programs. Vocational/technical high schools, for example, must also provide a solid foundation for post-secondary education, if and when the vocational high school graduate chooses to continue his/her education. This integration of missions also applies to comprehensive high schools, where smaller learning communities and career academies are already showing positive results in academics, behavior/attendance, and graduation rates.

Having taught for 35 years, I believe that I have witnessed the "down-grading" of the Vocational program within the public school sector. The task of training good vocational workers has been handed over to employers. Unfortunately, apprenticeship programs have not been able to keep up with our country's need for skilled vocational workers. It has become increasingly difficult to find a really skilled carpenter, plumber, electrician, or brick mason.

Over the years I have watched students being steered into colleges not really knowing what profession they wished to pursue. Sadly many students graduate from four year colleges with degrees that do not equate to worthwhile jobs. Students who have vocational talents are discouraged from perfecting those talents because schools have cut vocational courses and local vocational schools have quotas that are filled too quickly to offer all interested students the opportunity they deserve.

I am saddened to hear that Public School vocational education is going to be made almost non-existent in our country. Instead of withdrawing support from our schools dwindling vocational programs, I suggest doubling the monies appropriated for vocational programs which might truly make Public Education actually serve ALL the students and not just those being herded into colleges and technology programs.

Nancy L. Burkhart

I've spent my career as a public school educator and organizational development specialist in the private sector. More than ever, we need vocational and technical education. Has any politican asked what it costs per hour for an electrician or a plumber or an auto mechanic? Who will ensure that these craftspeople are still welcome in our society? The current administration is focused on supporting about 2 or 3 percent of our population. Now what about the other 97 or 98 percent? Where would Mr. Bush be without the support of his privileged family? Maybe, he would have benefited from a credible technical and vocational education program! The education community needs to fight these cuts!

Career-technical education is doing double-duty for students in Ohio: preparing students for both careers AND postsecondary education. Most of our programs offer some type of nationally-recognized industry credential, such as the ASE certification in automotive technology, or MOS, Cisco, or Novell in information technology, PLUS articulated credits toward degrees at two-year or four-year colleges. We serve students with special needs, "average" kids, and "college-prep" students--all without "tracking" them into a vocational vs. college prep trap. In our view, ALL students should be prepared for both careers and postsecondary--not just the "non-college bound" or the "college-prep." To track students that way is to perpetuate a false caste system of working class vs. professional class--when our society is much more fluid than that. We owe it to all high school students to help them take courses that are academically rigorous but also relevant to their career interests--something traditional high schools AND traditional vocational schools have not done very well. But, take a look at Ohio's programs and see how we're changing that tradition!

I can't believe that George Bush will cut Vocational-Technical Training Programs in the public schools. I benefited from a Secretarial/Accounting Vocational Training Program while in high school(in Ohio). In my first year of college I typed 50-55 wpm and secured a part-time clerical position to help with tuition costs. The vocational program was academically challenging and it prepared me for the workforce. I am all for doubling funding to Vocational-Technical Training Programs and schools that bridge high school students with jobs and/or post-sencondary education. Fight the cuts--SAVE OUR KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The rationale to eliminate the voc. ed. programs, because they haven't shown any benefit is not valid. For the last 40 years that I have been in school, we have had the voc. ed. programs. Bush has no idea whether they are worth the money or not. How can he? Either he nor I have been in a school without the program.

Eliminating it may tell us whether they work or not, but at what price? We can't afford to do research with our youth.

This reminds me of the politician who said that throwing money at education does not work. A teacher answered, "How do we know? It's never been tried".

We may not know whether voc. ed. programs are worth the money spent on them, but do we want to find out by sacrificing our youth? A report a couple of weeks ago, said that the need for employees in blue collar jobs was increasing and is now at critical shortage level. When and where are we planning to teach our youth to work with their hands as well as their minds?

That's what we get for "electing" people who have no clue about education or about how the "other half lives".

In the past we have used terms like visual learners, auditory learners, and tactile learners. Who is going to be left out of the picture here? Right. The hands-on learner will lose again just as he/she did with NCLB and its endless paper and pencil testing. How about Body-kinesthetic intelligence or Spatial intelligence? Oops! I'm using terms educators might use. I forgot that education is being run by the politicians now. Forgive me!

As an Career and Technical educator I can not believe that our President thinks that Voc Ed is not needed. We have many students who will never be able to attain a college degree, they need an alternative. A good Vocational program not only gives students an alternative, but will also supply future skilled employees.

Vocational and career education is essential to the development of low functioning students and f students who have limited academic abilities. These types of programs allow them to gain critical skills, networking opportunities and find jobs when they otherwise might be lost in a world of post secondary employment opportunities for highly skilled and educated people.

How can we do without our vocational schools. The careers that they launch are vital to our society and everyday lives. Public education simply has enough to deal with without adding the vocational piece. However, that does appear what some high schools are doing to keep the tax dollars in their districts. Private vocational schools are not affordable for the general masses.

What are our American values today regarding those whose income cannot stretch to limits beyond public education?

My son went to a very good regional vocational school and received excellent trainingin his field and his academics were far more rigorous than my son anticipated. He graduated with honors and every year, students go on to colleges and universities than ever before. There is an underlying myth that undermines the quality of vocational schools and what they have to offer.

Why is it that the first reaction is to reduce educational funds when they are most needed? How can schools improve and meet the requirements of NCLB when the funding diminishes each year? Isn't that a self-fulfilling prophecy- public education is doing a poor job educating our youth so we will cut the finding, tie their hands and raise the bar so it becomes Mission Impossible?

There are far to many people who just don't get it and are not willing to face the fact that yes we as educators have room to improve but we are better educated than ever before and also faced with more societal problems in our classrooms than ever before. There are many factors that affect educational success.

It is no wonder that fewer people enter this profession because the obstacles are challenging and to remain in this profession even more challenging; it's not the money or "summers off". I am working harder than I ever have and yet more frustrated at all the "stuff" that is in the way of me doing my job. The "time off" is a time to regroup, rejuvenate, do some professional development, serve on committees, etc.

Furthermore, state testing and AYP are questionable in their validity and reliabilty. More information needs to be available publically on other success factors such as SAT scores. Many states have students getting higher scores than ever before!

Educators need to be reminded that we are doing a great job and the rewards seem like a cliche but our students provide us the drive and the satisfaction we get for doing our best to educate our children.

Best Regards,
Donna Gogas
Gr.8 Language Arts Teacher

I teach the special population students at a vocational center in Coldwater, Mississippi. I believe that for some of these students this is the only way they will get training for a job to become a productive citizen. Once they leave the formal high school education setting they are less likely to pursue any further education. Skills at the vo tech centers have become much more technical in nature and require alot more attention. For years vocational education has provided the necessary education for thousands of students to get jobs. THere may be some areas where it may not be reaping the expected benefits, but before you do away with it I ask that you think about all these students with special needs(learning disabilities) that because of these disabilities may not be able to read well or do math but can learn a trade and make a living for themselves. College is not for every child and to totally take away this vocational option is horrible and will only lead to a greater number of drop outs in our high schools. Moving it to the junior college level will not encourage special needs children to further their education because most of their parents are not highly educated and will not have the money nor will they encourage or motivate their children to go on. Please do not take away the Carl Perkins Act. Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion. Respectfully, Mr. Larry Laster

I attendeded a vocational center high school back in the 60s. I took the college track that was offered and went on to college to become a teacher and now an administrator. My sister took the beautician courses and has been a practicing hair stylist for over 30 years now. I am very successful and make a good living for Mississippi. My sister has done exceptionally well and has owned her own shop for many years. College track and vocational education can coexist quite nicely and is very necessary. Please don't do away with these vital programs! Carol Laster

Vocational schools get a bad rap and it is this negative stereotype that leads to the devaluing of vocational education. What needs fixed is not the students who attend vocational school but the publics perception of the value of this type of education. The negative opinion of vocational education affects how the students view themselves. This negativism permeates the school and community and leads to a lack of respect for vocational education. The public thinks that students who attend a vocational school look a certain way and act a certain way. This unenthusiastic attitude shapes the way the students see themselves and eventually they start to “meet” these expectations.
As far as Vocational Education students lagging behind traditional high school students, the high schools themselves have to be held accountable. The High schools only send the students they do not want and if an above average student wants to attend a vocational school the home school makes it very difficult. If vocational schools were able to draw from the entire school population (instead of the one chosen by the home school) then it would not be lagging behind. Those students who want to attend a vocational school should be able to attend. High schools are not “graded” on the number of students they send to a vocational school; therefore they do not see the value in vocational education.
Parents also need to be held accountable. Many parents do not see the value of an education that does not necessarily lead to college. Parents have to realize that college is not always the ultimate answer. Vocational education is a viable training tool. There continue to be more and more jobs that require technical skills that can be achieved in a vocational school. More and more of our young adults are leaving high school unprepared to work. They have the idea that they must attend college in order to be successful. There are as many if not more college graduates that are unemployed or working at jobs that do not utilize their skills then students who graduated from a vocational school.

What's Wrong With this Picture?
Interesting that the 2 photos displayed in this article show 2 students using hand tools and doing industrial age, or is it agricultural age (in the case of the lacrosse stick) work. And you all are wondering why voc ed has an image problem. It is not just an image problem but a program problem, once again some trappings like more academic courses are added to the voc ed curriculum and it is deemed "improved and effective" while its students still concentrate on manual skills for jobs that will pay low wages or not even exist. Worse yet, it sets students up to think they are prepared to prosper in the 21st century while they are really being prepared to struggle in the low wage service economy. 21st century Jobs require 21st Century Skills, like innovation, creativity, communication, computer, math & science literacy and yes, some sort of post secondary degree or technical certification, Any thing less and you are condeming students to a life long struggle in the low wage market place. As for the lament about "your students' or "special students' who cant succeed in higher level programs, I lament that they dont have a teacher who can motivate and inspire them to higher levels of performance. All the current "brain research" and pedagogy points to the fact that students can rise to the level of teacher expectation and develop more brain capacity as they learn new material. If this article and the posts in this thread are any indication of the argument that will be made to defend voc ed or Career & Tech Ed than I am afraid the Bush Adminstration might just succeed in elimanating Perkins, my real hope is that the funds be used instead to create a new competitive catergory of grants that will fund truly "innovative" 21st Century Skills programs that prepare students to propser and succeed in this Century and not the 20th Century.
See http://www.itacademy.org/ &
for more info about 21st Century Skills

One more thing.... In case you think I am an outsider, let me assure you, I have a HS Degree from Nassau County BOCES a voc ed program in 1975 and I am a Connecticut certified teacher with a Masters Degree in Tech Ed who has taught woodshop 1983-1987 and Tech Ed 1993- 1997 and am the director 1999 - 2005 of a HS program for urban and suburban students in Connecticut that focuses on 21st Century Skills.

Even with all that great education made available to him, it seems our President cannot grasp a basic understanding of how things are done in the world. Take for example the chair upon which you currently sit, or the floor on which you currently stand. Someone used his or her hands and tools to build that. That particular someone is called a Carpenter. Now go use the bathroom and wash your hands, the person responsible for that is called a Plumber. Turn on the lights; thank what we call an Electrician. The person who keeps the President's car running is called a Mechanic. None of these things just happens by magic. Someone makes all this neat stuff in the world work.

Now here is the catch. The majority of the people who make all of these wonderful things in the world actually work, probably did not go to Yale. Many of them went through a Vocational Program. The proof of the success in the Vocational Programs is evident every time you use...well…just about everything. If your ceiling didn't fall in while you were reading this and water didn't poor out of your computer, you can give thanks to a Vocational Program. If our President needs proof of the merits of such a program, maybe he should try taking care of that fancy limousine he just bought for a while.

There does not need to be a marked improvement in these programs to warrant their existence. Unlike our President’s personal wealth, some things just do not continue to improve in perpetuity. It is completely acceptable that certain things just continue to work. Just like the light switch in the Oval Office. It does not need to be improved; it just needs to keep working.

Glenn C. Flamik
Roseville, CA

George wants to apply a cookie cutter cure to our very culturally and intellectually diverse students. Not all students can learn in the same way at the same time. The more options we offer our students the better the chances they have to become successful contributing members of this society.

Over the years, I have received feedback from countless former students. Their vocational training in my classes (Family & Consumer Sciences) really made a positive difference in their lives! The general comment was to the effect that these classes teach students about, and prepare them for, what happens in real day-to-day life situations. What could be more relevant? We need to continue to fund these programs and provide those experiences for all students.

As a former Agriculture Education Teacher, I have seen the many benefits of vocational education. College is not for everyone. Vocational education provides the training to make many students productive members of our tax paying society. As a personal note, my son was involved in agriculture education and FFA for his 4 years of high school. He competed in many contests such as mechanics (at the netional level)and sales and service. These classes and contests gave him the confidence and skills to enter college and pursue an engineering degree. He is using his vocational skills to help pay for college. He is making $35/hour, where other students are working for minimum wage. There is a big need for the continued funding of vocational education. We need to teach all students.

I'm a student covering issues related to vocational education this semester. I was hoping you could give me some feedback about what the most important issues in vocational technology education are right now.

Apparently some children are going to be left behind. The president proposes total elimination of Perkins funding for tens of thousands of career and technical students across the country. In my own school system, fully one third of our high school students will graduate on the technical path. This is typical across Tennessee. Couple this with the fact that the Perkins Act is one of the few federal education initiatives that actually works well, and you have a proposal from the administration that simply makes no sense.

I agree that we have devalued vocational education and now need to present the skilled trades in a more positive light - as a viable, honorable option for students. I work with people performing 21 different skilled trades - all earning a good living. Here are some slogans that we developed that may challenge the conventional thinking: If you're a Plumber, your job will never get 'outsourced' to India. If you're an Electrician, you will never have to relocate to find a job. If you're an HVAC Mechanic, you will never have to worry about 'industry layoffs'. If you're a Carpenter, you will never get transferred to the 'home office' in Cincinati. (Please feel free to use these to promote vocational options).

I am concerned about the cuts in vocational education. Our students benfit greatly from vocational education and seem to enjoy high school with hands on education.
I believe this prevents several students from dropping out and keeps them interested in school, so they will graduate.
Promoting vocational education is a plus for those students that are at risk for dropping out of high school.
These students are able to compete at their level in specialized training and further their education , possibly, later.

Bush may have proposed eliminating voc ed but Congress is, as we write, almost ready to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Act that supports voc ed (career and technical education or CTE) Our attention needs to be directed not to lamenting the obvious ignorance of Bush on the value of CTE but on lobbying Congress to ensure that Perkins is at worst fully funded and at best is supported by increased funding. CTE also needs to pick itself up a bit. CTE is in the double bind of saying it teaches to high academic standards imbedded in its applied skills training and at the same time is the safety net for drop out prevention and a safe harbor for "those" students deemed not capable of learning a college based curriculum. We can't have it both ways. There are some great models out there where high schools have reconstructed themselves to eliminating "leveling" of English and math class room instruction (in my day it was called tracking) and fully integrated that learning into the CTE offerings with teachers team teaching. And lo and behold, students (all of them) are rising to the expectation.
Let’s not be sidetracked into Bush bashing. It may feel good for the moment but won't serve our interest if we ignore the work that needs to be done to ensure Congress funds Perkins and CTE moves into the 21st century to meet our student’s needs.

I am the product of the two areas being discussed. My father was a voc. ed teacher, my mother a medical librarian/english teacher/history teacher with two Masters degrees from the University of Chicago in Library Science and History. My father made me take drafting, typing, auto shop, electric. He made me take the ASVAB test and talk to recruiters. My mother made me take 4 years of everything; math, science, history english, foreign language. Then I added all the music activites. My father had a hard time with me choosing music as my career but decided to make sure his girls would be educated in all areas. As I read about what is being proposed, my stomach tug and turns because it is just another area of SOCIETY (along with the arts) that is being cut. There is a place for EVERYONE in this world and it is our job to make sure that our kids will thrive in our society. It is our job as parents to make sure that the talents our children have are developed, and all children have talents. It is the job of those who choose the area of education as a career to help students identify and develop these talents and pass on their area of knowledge to others as best they can. That is why schools were formed with every area being represented. Focusing on only one area of education and ignoring the rest will have the long-term result of an even more ignorant, small-minded, less tolerant society. Public schools are public because they serve EVERYBODY as best they can. Rich/poor, gifted/special needs. I do not understand how we can sit back and ignore the rhetoric that has been going on for the last four years. Especially in education. If one pays attention to what is being said and promoted by this admistration and what is being done, they don't match up. The use of "the word" is very very strong and this administration and affiliates know how to use words to promote their ideas and opinions as being the "truth" and many buy into it. (How do you think he got into office for another four years?) I do not want to see voc. ed, the arts and other areas in education be severely cut or elimiated, but I don't know how to motivate people (especially in my area, a blue collar town) to act.

I have worked at a Career & Technical center for 25 years as a Career Assessment Specialist. I have seen first hand the benefits of Career Ed. Over the years, the opportunity to come to our school has saved several students from dropping out. Not every student is cut out for college or have the finances.
Perkins is just one of several cuts in education that Bush is proposing. It's a shame that this is occurring while billions of dollars are being spent on a war that was begun under false pretences. The future of our students should be a priority. With out Career and Technical schools, several students will not receive training that can make them competitively employed in the job market. Are we going to let this president truly make us a nation of have and have nots?

I spent 13 years teaching Industrial Arts Drafting beginning around the onset of Voc. Ed. While I'm still against the concept of Voc. Ed., preferring the I.A. format, to eliminate V.E. is, as usual with this unelected president, short-sighted and mean-spirited. However, since he doesn't have to be accountable to anyone over the next four years, all the protesting in the world will be of little value. How many Voc. Ed. teachers even bothered to vote last November (or in 2000), let alone, voted for him!? I'd bet the answer would be surprising. Did anyone in the media ask "W" about his plans for Voc. Ed. during the so-called "debates"? With all the emphasis on NCLB, the Right Wing Wacko power brokers managed to distract both the media and those in education to the point where other issues were not in the discussion.
It's also just another step in shifting the burden back to the locals while taking credit for cutting taxes on the wealthy. If your town can afford it, you'll have Voc. Ed., if not, too bad, that's your problem. Or, perhaps it is intended to not only foster the growth of private voucher-accepting Voc. Ed. schools as a way to divide-and-conquer the public school "menace" but break up the last major employee union in the process. This is all part of a long-term plan by the Right Wing Wackos to return America to the late 1800's. I think the public schools have, at best, another 10 years. And with the damage being done to the students from NCLB, excessive computer use in the schools, vouchers, charter schools, etc., I don't think this country will survive to it's 300th anniversary, but I won't be around to say I told you so.
Art Pelletier
former six-term NH State Representative

As I read through the comments, I noticed that most of the discussion focuses on vocational education being for students who are not college-bound. It is, however, open to college-bound students also. It gives them a valuable way to experiment with different career areas and can help them decide what they want to choose as a major in college. It also gives students a chance to learn about real-life . . . not just theories. On a more personal note, think about your high school experience. How would you like to attend a high school with no class options except English, Math, Science and History? No art, no music, no Family Sciences, no Marketing, no Computers, no Automotive or Carpentry, no Drafting, no Health Occupations, etc . . . What do you find most useful every day: Romeo and Juliet or computer skills? I think that a well-rounded education includes vocational and academic classes. Sadly, by the time most Americans realize what is happening, it will be too late to stop it without costing even MORE money. I don't understand why the news media hasn't pursued Bush's education agenda more agressively to let parents know what is happening!

All of this and now a proposal to pass an increase in minimum wages has failed. Research has shown that to just get by, people need to make 7.00 an hour (and we are talking bare basics). Not only is the proposal to take away vocational training that has been very successful for many students in my high school (they are able to go right out into welding, carpentry, business jobs) but now they won't even be able to support themselves in those fast food or motel cleaning jobs, which apparently is all "we" think anyone should have the skills to do. Well, that is unless you have a rich daddy who can buy your way into an ivy league school. Then you can be a dismal failure at every business effort you go into and be rewarded by becoming president of the United States!

I have been a high school counselor for 20 years and observed the value of good vocational education programs both at area vocational schools and comprehensive high schools. I find it encouraging to read the comments from other supporters. Vocational education does have something for everyone. Students with high acdemic abilities can explore various career pathways and learn skills which will help them in college and the personal life. Students who do not plan to attend a traditional college can learn technical skills which will enable them to earn better wages and will have more chance for career advancement than if they only earn a high school diploma. Private technical schools are very expensive and most average families cannot afford to send their children to such places. Without public highs schools and community colleges offering these courses, many students will resort to low paying service jobs. It won't be long before Americans will not be able to find someone to build their homes and businesses, repair their automobiles, or fix their computers. We do need to lobby our congressional representatives to keep them from making a mistake with which we will all have to live.

I always tell the story of a high school friend who dropped all his academic subjects after his sophomore year because he had the basics to get into college. He signed up for auto mechanics.

We book nerds laughed at him slumming with the students we considered the ruffians and the almost drop outs.

What he received, however, were solid job skills. He also entered a program at a major university using both his academics and mechanical skills. He graduated from Tech and entered a high-paying automotive job. Us book nerds are still struggling in this economic system.

This is the success that comes with a good votech education. Cutting it is short sighted.

My other concern is what we as a society contend is knowledge and how to show it. Students now can only show classroom learning and knowledge by sitting for hours and coloring in dots on standardized tests.

This does not allow students to show other skills and abilities.

I strongly agree with one of the writers, this is why we need to be careful who we put in office..Bush is not about the real people which includes our children, he is not about education of other people's children I am quite sure his daughters get their education.. I remember voc ed. when i was in high school I actually took woodshop and i really enjoyed i made a bench that i still use today in my kitchen almost 20 years later..The bottom line is we do not need to be cutting any education we need to be adding funds, teachers, schools, love and understanding..Bush is destroying this country bit by bit...

I am very pleased to read all of the positive comments about career and technical education. I hope that each of the respondents on this discussion board have also contacted their legislators with these stories of student success. It is only through consistent communication with the decision makers will we be able to make a difference and keep career and technical funding available for current and future students.

We can expect no different a view on vocational education from a member of the elite society. Just as top management in business frequently has no clear idea what his or her people are really like or what they need to perform better, our president is quite unaware of life on the ground in public education.

Oddly, there are some who should know better, but don't seem to--like Laura Bush. And I am really worried about the leadership. Secretary Spellings is described (in quotes printed in last week's BusinessWeek) as qualified as Secretary of Education because she has children in public education.

Pardon me, but this must mean that my having had a child in surgery qualifies me to lead the American Medical Association. We must make a lot of noise regarding how much damage is being done with all this standardized testing--done at the expense of developing and delivering real lessons. In the end, these numbers do not identify a good school or a bad one.

I have read here that vocational training is being given back to businesses. I can see very few that are willing to train people. Most prefer education and 3 to 5 years of experience: a ready-to-work employee, just add water and stir vigorously.

I am on the verge of certifying as an Industrial Arts teacher. Currently I teach special education in middle school. I am a Navy veteran and a certified quality engineer (organizational performance) as well as journeyman sheet metal fabricator and Industrial Hygienist Monitor. I've seen needs, wants and preparedness within several fields by now. It's getting worse, not better, but we can fix the problem.

Not only do I advocate vocational education, I (as does my high school daughter) recommend stepping back into themed secondary schooling. We also need to work to reach the truly gifted instead of pushing the one-size-fits-all, standards based approach. Focusing learning on a subject area of the students' vocational interests, versus the "learn this, it's good for you" approach in general curriculum, can add the sense of relevance that inspires people, and invites caring in what they learn about.

I often read how dismal is the accomplishment in basic studies: math, english and science. True; I see it all the time. I also see gifted young people languishing in a fog of boredom and the profoundly disabled struggling to meet a criteria they frankly will never achieve.

I want to see schools offer curriculum sets for business, medicine, engineering, building trades, automotive, and yes, in college preparation. In Maine we have vocational schools, but each serves several schools and the students still struggle to get a basic question answered: "Why is learning this important?" It feels like an impertinent question, but I assure you that it is a useful and worthy question. Why can't we make learning feel more relevant so as to boost interest in learning?

It is not necessarily difficult to teach math and science to automotive technicians, which we really do need in society. We just have to teach the appropriate math and science to them; math and science that matters, that is related to their field of interest. Same goes with business, medicine (including veterinary medicine and dentistry), culinary arts and the rest. Vocational education can do this, more so when it is removed from the margins.

I urge support for governors who are pushing back against the one-size-fits-all NCLB model, as it is certain to slow preparedness for entry into the work place, not expediting it.

ANY federal interest in public education is unconstitutional. (See amendment X.)

I appalaud W's cutting federal funding for Voc. ed. I hope he continues with cutting NCLB, post-secondary, and all the rest.

NOW is the time for all of us to realize that education is the states' responsibility, where we can have more effective control. Additionally, the bill for education will decrease because the taxpayers' input won't have to be skimmed to support the U.S. Department of Education.

Does anyone consider the possibility that the educational problems we have exist PRECISELY because of federal education? We had over 100 years of a good educational system, and about 100 years of a degrading one. Let's go back to the old way of looking at who is responsible for education and get the U.S. government out of it.

Jack, I think I can agree with you on this one.

The federal efforts to improve education look like a slow-motion social experiment.

We need Voc Ed, but states know what they need better than someone in Washington who has not led a classroom, a school, a district or in any way display skills in organizational performance improvement/quality system management.

The states may not do well, but they can deal with their lost esteem and do improvement from within. Many, like mine (Maine) already had standards but have more heaped on us. We are spinning like weather vanes.

So, how to stop the ride?

I am looking for research that shows the success of vocational education programs and policy recommendations for tech-ed programs. Suggestions?

To Michael Mino, post 2/25
I will ask you, as I have many others, to come and join my classroom. One example is an 18 year old child with an IQ of 65. He is still in the ninth grade! His parents have bought into the promise that he can go to college and refuse to put him on a special education diploma. Expectations must be realistic! Michael, you are an educated man, what if this were your son? You would make sure he was being trained for functional life skills. He is a fine young man who 20 years ago would have graduated with a vocational diploma but now is headed toward the route of high school drop out and future welfare for all the days of his life. Please consider ALL the students when making comments.This child is capable of being trained for a trade and wants this but his parents refuse to listen. They too say they we must raise our level of expectations.At 18 he can now make his own decisions but will not go against his parents wishes. Consider this, you are placed in a group where everyone has an IQ of 140 and told you are expected to demonstrate mastery of their level of learning. This is what we are doing to special education students. If you think you would fair well in this group then you must have an IQ well above average. I'm not trying to disagee with you, I'm just trying to show the other side of the coin.Thousands of children are going to be left behind because they do not meet unrealistic expectations.

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We should be doing all we can to pour monies into vocational education and not trying to do away with it by cutting funding. You only have to ask anyone that has ever graduated from a Vocational/Technical Insutute to learn just how valuable this type of education can be in a eprsons life.
I for one, feel that had it not been for Vocational/Techinical Education I would certainly not be where I am at today. I would most likely still be slinging hamburgers at a fast-food store. Doing away with funding for VOTech Education is just plain STUPID!

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