Magazine article Techniques

Will Tech Prep Survive School-to-Work?

Magazine article Techniques

Will Tech Prep Survive School-to-Work?

Article excerpt

Some of the questions I hear most frequently when I speak at educational conferences include: Is tech prep dead? Are tech prep and school-towork related? If they are, do they have a future together?

With respect to the first question, my answer is: It depends. If "tech prep" is merely a new label for an unchanged program, then it may indeed be dead because it never lived in the first place. Where tech prep has merely represented a name change, I suspect it provided just one more opportunity to tap into readily accessible government funding. Educators intent on making real and lasting changes in education look upon such practices with disdain. They are committed to using tech prep and school-to-work as a vehicle to improve their local schools and colleges. But a minority are not.

As viable tech prep programs continue, the most critical question is not whether tech prep is dead but whether it will maintain its unique identity and distinctiveness. Even if the name "tech prep" phases out, I suspect many tech prep concepts-such as secondary/postsecondary articulation-will survive because they yield tangible benefits for students. Other, more complex components such as applied academics may not if they do not increase student achievement.

There are strong parallels between tech prep and school-to-work. Are they related? Again it depends. As one of four panelists at a session of the American Vocational Association's annual convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, last December, I helped with a quick tech prep/school-to-work survey of our audience, which comprised more than 100 people. Session participants had three choices. These were the approximate results:

Tech prep is the foundation for school-towork-35 percent

School-to-work is the umbrella for tech prep-50 percent

Tech prep and school-to-work are exactly the same thing-15 percent

Each of these views represents major differences in how educators design and implement tech prep and school-to-work. There are potentially valuable linkages between tech prep and school-to-work, but only if educators clearly identify them. When tech prep is considered the foundation for school-to-work, educators must compare the tech prep system against the federal school-to-work requirements. Components already in place should be reinforced; missing links should be added. If tech prep doesn't factor into school-to-work plans, schools can end up duplicating programs or losing opportunities to serve students.

The umbrella view underestimates and sometimes undermines how tech prep can improve education. …

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