Teachers Union Stresses Academics: Says Emphasis on Job Training Undermines Federal Program

Article excerpt

School-to-Work programs fail when they emphasize narrowly focused vocational training programs and minimize academic achievement, the American Federation of Teachers asserts in a report issued yesterday.

Jumping into an ongoing debate over a contentious piece of federal legislation, the 925,000-member union spoke with 40 school authorities and visited five after the enactment of the 1994 National School-to-Work Opportunities Act spurred the growth of School-to-Work programs in the states.

"We didn't find one program we felt we could put on a pedestal and say, `Replicate it,' " said Dawn Krusemark, senior associate in the AFT's educational issues department and lead author of "Reaching the Next Step." "We found schools with pieces of quality programs."

The universal shortcoming in the AFT's eyes was "a lack of high standards - too many kids not being asked to do rigorous course work," Miss Krusemark said.

"We need a new way of thinking about this issue," said Edward J. McElroy, the union's secretary-treasurer, who called for a "school-to-career" approach that requires students to meet rigorous academic standards.

"We're preparing students for careers, and their work will change over time," he said. "That's why a good school-to-career program should provide a solid academic foundation. It gives students more options: college, training, or entry into the work force."

It will take more than higher standards to get some conservatives on board the STW train. Many see the legislation as part of a managed-economy and data-collecting network that threatens Americans' freedom of choice and privacy. …