Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Toward a Community Career System Program Evaluation Framework

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Toward a Community Career System Program Evaluation Framework

Article excerpt

This article is reprinted with permission from: Journal of Counselling and Development, Winter 2001, Volume 79, published by the American Counselling Association.

Herr (1995, 1996, 1997) has repeatedly criticized incoherent and inconsistent educational and workforce development policies in the United States. He stated that this inconsistency has led to career counseling and development services that fail to meet the life span employment needs of all citizens. National workforce development policies have been described as subject "to the whims of political and social agenda" (Herr, 1995, p. 264) and blown either on or off course by unpredictable changes in jobs and fortunes of political appointees and talented public servants (Barton, 1994). Chaote (1984) described how federal employment policies were primarily aimed at only 8% to 10% of our citizenry (i.e., those with the most severe impediments to meaningful employment). Barton chronicled federal policy from 1960 to 1990 that focused on growing national concern over the transition-to-work needs of high school students. He described such policies as "an odyssey of some promising beginnings that did not, for the most part, continue" (p. 11).

Herr (1995) noted that the lack of an omnibus piece of legislation to clarify and integrate career counseling services has led to the current situation in which the administration of and funding for career guidance services are diluted and fragmented across many federal and state agencies. Hoyt (1994) has suggested that the failure of career development services to become an integral piece of each school's educational mission results in large part from federal policies and initiatives that, in essence, are not connected to current national educational reform movements. It is not surprising that, in this milieu, many school counselors and administrators have demonstrated a lack of familiarity with and commitment to national workforce preparation policies (Bloch, 1996).

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (STWOA) attempted to fill this legislative and workforce education policy vacuum by providing funding for states to assume the challenge of creating local partnerships capable of meeting students' transition-to-career needs. A major intent of the STWOA was to provide both the financial support and general program structure (e.g., school- and work-based learning, and connecting activities) necessary for initiating systemic reform of educational and employment practices that impede progress toward the development of effective school-to-work (STW) community career systems (Herr, 1995). Ideally, school-to-work partnerships attempt to forge lasting relations among critical stakeholders (e.g., parents, community leaders, business, trade unions, and schools) to create sustainable career opportunity systems (Hamilton & Hamilton, 1998). As stakeholders help to design systems, partnerships can be tailored to the unique needs of highly diverse local communities.

True community-wide partnerships offered the United States an optimal, potentially sustainable interface between business and education. When asked by the authors of this article (as part of a series of focus groups evaluating initial statewide implementation of local community career partnerships) to describe student outcomes promoted by their community career system, a coordinator of an urban partnership provided an eighth-grade social studies class's monetary policy project as an example. As part of the integration of this class within the school-to-career partnership, the coordinator arranged structured student visits to the nearby Federal Reserve Bank. The STW coordinator stated the following in reference to this visit:

  When those students went into that bank and
   were treated so well, they were treated so professionally
   and so adult, that I saw in those
   students an attitude change because many of
   our students, while they won't tell you directly,
   they feel lost and hopeless. … 
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