Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

The Missing Link

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

The Missing Link

Article excerpt

When we launched our New York City Technical College tech prep program in 1991, we followed the basic 2+2 formula. his classically simple concept took shape quickly and easily--deceptively so, we later learned.

We designed our program to link four New York City high schools and the college (NYCTC) in three major career clusters: health sciences, engineering technology and business technology. The applied and integrated curriculum had been carefully crafted to remove gaps and overlaps between high school and college courses. We offered counseling, career education and work experience opportunities.

In the first year 600 students enrolled. The high school component showed many early signs of success, and we were excited about our plans to incorporate tech prep at the college.

But the end of the second year, when our original cohort was preparing to graduate from high school, provided a reality check for our unbridled enthusiasm. ire discovered that although we had implemented our first "2" and had designed the second "2," we apparently had neglected the "+" in our formula.

We had assumed that if we built our field of dreams, students would come to the college. Although 75 percent of the first tech prep graduates did enroll in postsecondary education programs--many in their career cluster--only 15 percent chose to continue tech prep at NYCTC. Initially we were pleased with those outcomes, but we had projected that at least 40 percent would continue at NYCTC. We needed those numbers to keep tech prep viable.

We also were disappointed in the performance of the tech prep graduates who did enter our "grade 13" component. Their results on the basic skills entrance exams were significantly higher than those of the college's non-tech-prep entrants, but we had by no means eliminated the need for remediation. In addition, the tech prep group tended all too frequently to report the same types of adjustment problems experienced by many entrants to an urban, commuter college: inability to negotiate the system, lack of identity with the institution and the lack of a peer support system.

Clearly it was time to re-examine our design. With the high school component in place and plans for a first-year college program ready for implementation, we decided to invest our energy in developing strategies to ensure continuity through the full, four-year sequence. What emerged is a transitional program that underscores the real meaning of articulation.

Reaching out

Our objectives were to:

* increase the percentage of students who opt to continue tech prep at NYCTC,

* reduce the need for remediation after grade 12 and to improve college-level study skills and success strategies, and

* intensify use of successful tech prep learning approaches and support services at NYCTC.

During our first two years we had recruited interested 10th grade students. We revised our recruitment packet to emphasize the importance of the four-year sequence by including a non-binding student/parent contract that, while explaining the many entry and exit points available in tech prep, asked students to sign the contract only if they were willing to make an interim commitment to continue tech prep at NYCTC.

We also added orientation sessions for tech prep juniors and seniors. In these sessions, counselors explain the distinctions between associate and bachelor's degree programs; discuss how tech prep courses, for example "engineering technology," differ from such traditional programs as engineering; and reinforce the understanding that tech prep associate degrees easily lead right into bachelor's degree programs at NYCTC and other colleges. Employers discuss their entry-level requirements and tuition reimbursement programs.

In a second-wave recruitment program during fall semester of the students' senior year in high school, counselors again review the distinctions between two- and four-year programs. …

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