Don't Just Sit There, Defend STW

By Zirkle, Chris | Techniques, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Don't Just Sit There, Defend STW


Zirkle, Chris, Techniques


Critics blast STW for asking students to make choices and then blame it again for not allowing students to make choices. Perhaps we are partly to blame for not making the goals and objectives clear.

I am getting a bit irritated with all the recent criticism leveled at school-to-work. The legislation is slated to sunset in 2001. That was always the plan, and states and schools always knew that they would have to sustain school-to-work initiatives without federal help after that. But what I am more concerned with is what I have been reading about STW. Some critics have characterized STW as a direct threat to student privacy, devoid of academic content. They say STW chills educational opportunity and kills youthful dreams.

The latest report I've come across (the one that pushed me over the edge and inspired me to write this column) is the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation's New Directions: Federal Education Policy in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn Jr. The section entitled "School-to-Work: Right Problem, Wrong Solution" is an unfair potshot at STW, with very few facts and a lot of innuendo.

For starters, the Fordham report says that STW was "designed for students likely to drop out of school altogether." I don't remember that being the primary reason why STW was created. I was under the impression the country wanted to seek better ways to help young people transition from school to the workplace, help business and industry partner with schools and help students develop career awareness.

At several points in the document, references are made to STW contributing to the "dumbing down" of the curriculum and taking valuable time away from academics. In my experience as a school administrator and college faculty member, states have been increasing the number of academic courses required for graduation since the STW legislation went into effect five years ago. More states also have started implementing academic exit tests. I don't think any teacher, principal or school district has had the time to dumb down its curriculum. What's more, the article provides no evidence of curriculum that has suffered in this way.

The report also criticizes how states have implemented career clusters as part of STW. Patricia McLeod, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Middletown, N. …

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