The purpose of the paper that resulted from Richard Lynch's yearlong assignment to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, is to identify and describe new directions for career and technical education in American high schools in the first decade of the 21st century. And although he says that he did not achieve his original intention of producing a single defining vision of high school career and technical education at the national level, he does provide information and research to help individual institutions and programs sharpen their own visions of the future of career and technical education.
In the research literature that he studied, Lynch found considerable agreement on what should be the primary directions for career and technical education, and four themes emerged.
Career Planning: There is a need to infuse career planning throughout the entire curriculum, from pre-K through lifelong learning. Career awareness should begin in early childhood and continue through about age 11, with introductions to careers and discussions with adults. Connections should be made for children between the basic subjects they are studying and their applications in the workplace. Career exploration in middle school should be more field based, action oriented and specific. It should involve examination of the relationships between careers and personal goals, education requirements and citizenship. Career exploration is the goal in high school and includes much more focused preparation for workplaces and college majors. Upon entry into high school, a career major is tentatively selected, and then is finalized by the junior year.
High School Reform: Most of those interviewed, as well as much of the literature reviewed by Richard Lynch, saw the challenge to improve high school career tech as directly connected with the challenge of improving the high schools themselves. The suggestions for high school reforms include making schools smaller, more focused, more challenging, more interesting, and more friendly and fair to all students and parents. There is also a need for more real-world connections and for more resources--including more technology and well-prepared teachers.
Upgrade to a New Career and Technical Education: Currently, many prestigious colleges and universities do not favorably consider high school career tech courses in their admission requirements, and many employers Lynch interviewed did not consider high school career tech graduates adequately prepared for primary employment positions in their firms. Therefore, not only is an improved image needed, but high school career and technical education should be more rigorous and challenging. There should be more reading, more integration of academics, more preparation in technology and more work-based learning. There should also be more collaboration with business, industry and postsecondary institutions, and more accountability.
The K-14 Model: The final theme that emerged in the research was a need for consideration of postsecondary education for all high school students, including those in career and technical education programs. School and business leaders offered two main suggestions for reforming career and technical education: tech prep and articulation between secondary and postsecondary institutions. Lynch poses a relevant policy question. Should a free public education for K-14 be extended to all students? It is his hope that local, state and federal governments will give priority to funding education through at least 13 and 14 years.
Based on these four themes, Lynch …