Magazine article Techniques

Tech Prep: The Middle Plan

Magazine article Techniques

Tech Prep: The Middle Plan

Article excerpt

While some career and technical educators have relegated tech prep concepts to the garbage heap of another failed "educational fad," the original vision represents the best, and some would argue the last, hope for a strategic direction toward a coordinated career and technical education.

Tech prep is significant because it can serve a desperately needed function: the "glue" that holds the secondary and postsecondary career and technical education system together. Indeed, without development of one seamless system that has a clear role for postsecondary education, career and technical education may remain marginalized within American education, producing programs that neither parents, students nor businesses consider beneficial.

One fundamental conventional wisdom of career and technical education has been the belief in the need for separate programs that lead to specific jobs. If this happens, it is usually a matter of historical accident. The majority of high school students who take career and technical education courses are in regular high school programs that will lead to some form of postsecondary education. They do not enter the world of work; they prepare for additional education.

In Macomb County, Mich., studies of young adults, conducted five years after they graduated from high school, reveal that 82 percent or more have attended some form of postsecondary education. This is not to discount out-of-school youth and the small numbers of students who do not attend college, but as we develop national programs, we must recognize that some form of postsecondary education is now a social and economic reality within the United States.

This is not to say postsecondary career and technical education can't improve. Postsecondary programs should build on secondary initiatives and not repeat introductory courses.

And faculty need to be up to date and technically competent--which isn't always the case now.

If tech prep works correctly, the students who emerge from the programs will enter college better prepared for advanced technical instruction. Articulation agreements, while positive because they force discussions between secondary and postsecondary teachers, are useful only if their main goal is the faster advancement toward greater technical mastery, not simply the marketing of college credit to high school students.

Because tech prep deals with curriculum development and encourages the completion of at least an associate's degree, it is attractive to the majority of students who want a college experience. …

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