THE PUBLIC'S PERCEPTION OF NO CHILD LEFT Behind (NCLB) is one of confusion. Most people, including educators, expect that public schools should be accountable and should have high standards. Yet, when thoroughly investigated, NCLB goals are statistically impossible to achieve and actually punish schools with high percentages of minorities and underrepresented populations. In addition, school systems in low socioeconomic status areas are destined for failure as well.
Students attracted to career and technical education (CTE) programs generally favor a hands-on learning method called kinesthetic learning style, which is not easily or usually tested on high-stakes tests that are required by NCLB. Therefore, across the country, school districts are narrowing their educational delivery methods and replacing CTE classes with remedial education classes.
Interestingly though, not one positive effect on learning and retention was found in 144 studies that evaluated remedial education efforts. In addition, by limiting course offerings (that is replacing CTE [which can address all learning styles] with remediation courses), schools are inadvertently destining their students for more failures, because students who learn kinesthetically will become even more disenfranchised with school. There is hope; a historical look at the educational process embedded within CTE versus only focusing on CTE's outcomes is the answer for American education.
Figure 1 illustrates "Determinates of Excellence in Vocational Education" since the 1900s. Specifically, the chart highlights over time what attributes (i.e., basic competencies [or academics], job-specific skills or economic development) were associated with good and effective vocational education programs.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
A Look Back
At the turn of the 1900s, education in the public schools was boring, mostly memorization of facts and regurgitation of those facts on tests. However, most young people didn't complete grade school education, much less high school. Regardless, education was becoming more important in the United States, and there were numerous outcries for educational reform from all sectors of society.
Rufus Stimson, at that time president of the Connecticut Agricultural College (now the University of Connecticut), quit his job to become a high school teacher. He did so to test his theory of education, which was to see if academics could be learned better in an applied setting. His high school students in North Hampton, Massachusetts, came from the agrarian countryside with hundreds of unanswered questions about their farms.
Professor Stimson used this natural curiosity in his classes and fine tuned the problem-solving approach to teaching, which became the beginnings of vocational education and was the impetus for including experiential education activities within vocational legislation. The important point of this era was that good and effective vocational education programs were reinforcing academics through applied and relevant activities.
This interesting, and usually forgotten, CTE origin is the essence of being a premier educational delivery system.
Figure 2 identifies, from research, various educational and developmental delivery systems and their relationship with effective education. For this paper, effective education is defined as a delivery system that focuses on retention of content and skills by addressing the learning styles of all students, in every class, every day.
As clearly shown in Figure 2, career and technical education is posed to be the best or premier educational delivery system in the country. The chart emphasizes the relationships among CTE and other well-known educational and developmental efforts. What went wrong? Why is CTE often left out of discussions about improving our educational situation? Looking back at Figure 1 and the era that began in the 1930s gives us that answer. …