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Tech Ed Left Behind


Vocation programs in New York public high schools have sharply decreased over the past decade due to a lack of funding and an NCLB-driven curriculum. In 1992, 41 percent of the state’s public high school students completed at least one vocational course, compared with 25 percent last year. “We started raising standards and adding more requirements, and something had to fall off the plate,” Buffalo Schools Superintendent James A. Williams told the Buffalo News.

The Buffalo school system has seen a drop of 29 percent enrollment in vocational classes since 1999, forcing local businesses to fill apprentice positions with well-paid full-time trade workers. “We overreacted,” adds James P. Mazgajewski, superintendent of another upstate school district. “The bent became preparing kids for college—period. It’s nice...to be exposed to it, but it isn’t necessary for a mechanic to quote Shakespeare while he’s fixing my car.” School districts throughout the state are working to rebuild vocational education, weighing options such as lengthening the school day to accommodate the classes.


This issue no long needs to be viewed interms of college or no college. Many vocational programs actuallly offer college credit to various colleges within New York. This means that students can eanr their Regents Diploma and earn college credits while attending vocational education programs. That, actually, is one of the unique advantages to vocational education. Students can leave high school with job skills ready to enter the workforce in a job they have chosen, or they can or they can further their education with college credits already earned!

I think it is critically important to think "outside the box" in terms of how we teach students so that we can accomplish the goal(s) of providing them with the knowledge which is ostensibly being measured by the NCLB standards and the American Diploma Project. The skills which are necessary in the workforce -- critical thinking, team building, problem solving -- too often are not easily quantified by standardized tests. Although Vocational Technical Schools used to be thought of as alternatives to post-secondary education, they can be stepping stones to college. However, the "hands-on" learning that is traditionally associated with them is just as important as the more traditional type, and for many students it is a preferred learning style. The challenge is how to embed the necessary knowledge into courses that are less about books and tests, and more about projects and skills.

What an odd dichotomy in a post-industrial economy! A higher percentage of local voc ed kids go to college than the college track - but they usually go to vocational college programs that recruit them for their resume as much as for their grades. And NCLB tests, as bad as they are, are certainly no barrier to voc ed success. The real difference between a general track and voc ed track is that students can develop a learning contract in an interdisciplinary subject - like computer games, for example - in vocational ed a lot easier than in English/history/math.

My hat is off to the people that are going back to Vocational Education / Industrial Arts. This is with the best interest of the kids in mind. In Indiana, The State Superintendent of Education was told that those types of classes were out dated and they talked the State Board into adopting the new programs that teach NO marketable skills. We service about 1/4 the number of students that we did 15 years ago when these new programs started. I did not change the content of the classes that I taught, my numbers did not go down, as a matter of fact they went up. At that time, we had to run an extended day program, with a waiting list to get into the class. If I had changed the content of my classes, they would have gone down to one or none the same as the other high schools did in our district. We were always taught in college, to develop a program that fits the needs of the students, I feel that this is what we always did and we need to go back to this ideal. We do not need to develop a program and then try to make the students fit the needs of the program. I have since retired from teaching and was able to hand pick the teacher to replace me. He has kept the same program going, is still on an extended day, and still has a waiting list to get into the class. We need more Vocational Classes for the students that need to learn these types of curriculums. With these types of classes, the students can gain marketable skills, get a job, and become productive members of society.

My father was a professor of engineering at FIU and always said that students that came from
vocational schools were better prepared.
In Miami students that cannot pass the FCAT and drop out are told to sign that they promise to finish by GED or night school and are not included in the percentage of drop out students reported yearly. No one ever checks if they do. Perhaps the DOE can set aside money to pay for these students to go to vocational schools and finish with a marketable skill.
I've talked to many who graduated from vocational schools and they say they are treated professionally and expected to be professional.

Although production and manufacturing jobs are moving from one region to another those jobs are still there and in some cases go begging because of lack of qualified manpower. Twenty five percent of the jobs require a four year degree and that is about the percentage of wage earners that have a degree. Seventy five percent of the jobs require skills that can be acquired by taking career/tech courses in high school and continuing at a community college. The emphasis on college and loss of career/tech courses is a disservice to the young people of America. We as educators need to make available as many job options and opportunities and possible to keep from shoving a square peg in a round hole. By the way let's get rid of the antiquated term "vocation" when we refer to these programs, we do all have one don't we?, and call these programs career/technical, reflecting what these programs are today or what they should aspire to be.

Hello, I am an ex-engineer w/ 7 years experience. I have most of an A.A. in mechanical design, BS in Public Admin and want to teach tech ed. I am currently enrolled in a Masters Program for technology education and am looking for a job (will need emergency certification). I am also currently substituting in the local school district (here in Wisconsin) but my wife and I are willing to move. If you have any suggestions or need a motivated professional who just wants to teach tech ed and wants help finishing his Masters and getting certified drop me a line at [email protected] and I can send you a resume etc. thank you.

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Recent Comments

  • charles thorpe: Hello, I am an ex-engineer w/ 7 years experience. I read more
  • John Thorn: Although production and manufacturing jobs are moving from one region read more
  • Maria Martinez: My father was a professor of engineering at FIU and read more
  • William D. Baldwin Dr.B: My hat is off to the people that are going read more
  • Joe Beckmann: What an odd dichotomy in a post-industrial economy! A higher read more




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