Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Tech Prep Runs into Problems in South Carolina

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Tech Prep Runs into Problems in South Carolina

Article excerpt

Tech Prep Runs Into Problems in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- In what could be a harbinger of the future for the nation, early signs indicate the tech-prep route in South Carolina's high schools does not run much better than the so-called "general track" that it replaced. Education officials believe that inadequate teacher training for the rigorous applied classes could be one problem with the program.

Tech-prep courses target students who cannot handle college-prep work yet still need preparation for jobs. But some say tech prep has become synonymous with mediocrity.

The federal government, other states and national tech-prep supporters are closely monitoring the outcome of the debate here because every state offers tech-prep programs.

"This is not just a problem in South Carolina," says Dan Hull, president of the Center for Occupational Research and Development, a Waco, Texas, group that supports tech prep. "The problem, in many cases, is that principals and superintendents are not providing the professional development that teachers need to change their teaching styles."

Jan Nashatker, a teacher at South Aiken (S.C.) High School who instructs students in algebra, geometry, and math for technologies courses, says tech prep has a tarnished reputation.

"In the minds of a lot of teachers, you're cast into a situation you're ill-prepared for with students who are ill-prepared," she says, adding, "And you're expected to produce results."

The federal government for the past several years has allotted $100 million for tech-prep programs under the Carl D. Perkins Act. The money is divided among the fifty states.

South Carolina education officials say that a handful of school districts statewide perform superbly with good teacher training and high expectations for students. In most districts, however, teachers do not get special training and do not ensure that applied classes are as challenging as their college-prep courses.

"My worst fear, and I think the worst fear of all of us, was that the general track would just be renamed," says Nancy Dunlap, a top aide to state Education Supt. Barbara Nielsen. "My fear is that's what's happening."

The Center for Occupational Research and Development recommends that high school teachers receive at least five days of training on how to teach in tech prep's contextual learning style.

"Then, about every month for the first year," Hull says, "those teachers will need from two hours to a half day of follow-up training" to smooth over any problems they may encounter. …

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