Influencing Policy Makers about Secondary Family and Consumer Sciences Programs

Article excerpt

The telephone rings at the national headquarters of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. The receptionist answers and hears a distraught voice on the other end of the line saying, "Please let me speak with someone who can give me information to help save my high school program."

This is not an uncommon request. Calls like the one described are made to professional associations, university programs in family and consumer sciences, state departments of education, and teaching colleagues in other school districts. Each of the contact persons wants to help, but usually when the call is made the situation may be well beyond the help of less than extraordinary measures.

"It is obvious to individuals who observe numerous home economics programs in high schools, that some flourish and seem to be an essential and integral part of their school. Others, however, have very low enrollment and in fact may end up being phased out" (Erwin, Moran, & McInnis, 1996, p. 17). "Why do some programs blossom and others fade? Why do some programs have resources available to them and others complain of dwindling resources?" (Ley & Webb-Lupo, 1988). Strong programs don't just happen, they take hard work. Laying the groundwork for becoming an essential part of the school requires dedication and attention to details as well as the big picture.

As accountability and cost-cutting concerns affect educational decision making, the question of program viability for secondary family and consumer sciences programs will continue to raise its head across the country. For decades, secondary family and consumer sciences teachers were asked to take proactive measures rather than be reactive to a decision already made.

Important considerations in this monumental dilemma are these basic assumptions:

* A contemporary, future-oriented program in family and consumer sciences will hold its own or expand.

* Just because good things are happening in your program doesn't mean people will automatically know they are happening.

* Parents and community leaders can influence a school administrator's attitude.

* Local school boards are most interested in programs in their local schools.

The question, then, is how can you make these assumptions work in favor of your program?

A CONTEMPORARY PROGRAM

To keep programs on the cutting-edge with an eye toward the future requires teacher involvement in continuing education and professional development. Family and consumer sciences teachers need experiences that give them access to current information, skills, and trends. Professional organizations provide opportunities for family and consumer sciences teachers to sharpen this cutting edge.

The American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), the Family and Consumer Sciences Division of the American Vocational Association (AVA), the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), the American Council of Consumer Interests (ACCI), and other such organizations provide the secondary teacher with opportunities for professional growth. In fact, AAFCS is one organization that offers a program based on the value of continuing education for all family and consumer sciences professionals. The Certified in Family and Consumer Sciences (CFCS) designation requires a professional to participate in 75 hours of professional development activities over a three-year period. This credential is a way of showing your school board, school administration, parents, and students that you are committed to keeping up-to-date.

Teachers who are involved in professional development activities are more likely to incorporate the use of computers into the classes they teach; work on integration projects as a team member with teachers of academic subjects; and include tech prep and other such educational concepts in their curriculum. These activities, which show innovative and collaborative efforts not only increase a program's value to the school, but truly help to provide the best education for students. …