A Scientific Approach for Developing and Testing a Students' Job-Career Plan before 11th Grade

Article excerpt


The National Commission on Excellence in Education appointed by T.H. Bell, Secretary of Education in 1981, concerned about students graduating in the year 2000, studied our nation's schools in considerable detail in relation to accountability. After studying the nation's schools for nearly two years, in April, 1983 he published an alarming report entitled "A Nation at Risk" citing two basic problems in relation to our high schools (Bell, 1983): "Research clearly shows that those students with clearly defined goals and a sense of `direction' are more likely to persist and attain a college degree" (page 42), and "Even with your parents' best example and your teachers' best efforts, in the end it is your (student's) work that determines how much and how well you learn" (page 83).

Urgent Need for Tentative Job-Career Plans

The high schools of our nation (9th through 12th grade) have been reliably described as the bridge between the home and the work place or college. Personal goals and an individual's motivation to achieve in school are largely dependent on each other; for without intrinsic goals (related to job-career) there is little personal motivation (Cassel, 1974). It is clear that the two basic problems cited in relation to accountability in our schools are intimately related, and that personal motivation of a student is intimately related to personal goals embraced for that moment in time. The typical student enters 9th grade at 14 years of age and the bridge from school to work does not simply occur; schools are expected to facilitate the process. Early in the high school experience, the guidance counselor needs to plan a vigorous assessment process for each and every individual to understand the three high career activity interests, and the three low areas of interest. Students must be guided to seek job-career preparation involving their own high career interest activity areas, and to avoid job-careers involving low career activity interest areas. In a democracy the likes and dislikes of gainful employment activity are considered to be critical in relation to their later happiness. The most critical time in life to discover those likes is in 9th and no later than 10th grade, and that is the law under the School to Work Opportunities Act of 1994 where tentative job-career plans must be made before 11th grade. E.F. Lindquist, the chief architect for the ACT college prediction test, once said, "A student's success in fourth grade math is the best predictor we have of his/her ultimate success as an engineer later in life." Tentative job-career plans of a student are the best single motivator for success in most of the hard core subjects, i.e., biology, physics, calculus, etc. The career plans in high school are usually "tentative" but never-the-less real, for the nature of changes that typically take place later among students tends to be more or less general, as opposed to being specific. Students in the professional areas tend to pursue professional lines; and those in technical areas tend to pursue similar lines, etc.; so that where educational pursuit is concerned, the differences in relation to the students changing career plans tends to be rather minor in nature. This seems to be the case for both the career interest areas, and the general and special aptitude areas of life, and even with job careers that tend to change with the new communication age. No builder would ever think of building a house without a detailed plan, and the absence of a tentative job-career plans in 11th grade students is a challenge of the first order for students and school personnel.

School to Work Opportunity Act of 1994

This act was passed by Congress as a partial response to "A Nation at Risk Report" and it provided for a "job-career plan" before 11th grade. The act was intended for local school districts to build effective school to work systems as an extension to the typical career guidance program where the interest and aptitude of the student were considered the primary concerns. …