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OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Tech Prep Education
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Tech Prep, which began in the early 1980s as a small, locally driven high school improvement strategy, has grown into a major national strategy for improving students' academic knowledge and technical skills. As defined in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act (Perkins), Tech Prep is a sequenced program of study that combines at least two years of secondary and two years of postsecondary education. It is designed to help students gain academic knowledge and technical skills, and often earn college credit for their secondary coursework. Programs are intended to lead to an associate's degree or a certificate in a specific career field, and ultimately, to high wage, high skill employment or advanced postsecondary training.

To date, roughly 47% of the nation's high schools (or 7,400 high schools) offer one or more Tech Prep programs. Nearly every community and technical college in the nation participates in a Tech Prep consortium, as do many four-year colleges and universities, private businesses, and employer and union organizations.

Research on the effectiveness of Tech Prep programs is inconclusive. State evaluations in Texas and New York found some evidence that Tech Prep improved students' grade point averages, lowered dropout, reduced absences, increased high school completion, and improved postsecondary enrollment. However, these evaluations did not find evidence that Tech Prep improved students' scores on standardized academic achievement tests, and findings were mixed on whether Tech Prep improved students' postsecondary achievement or labor market outcomes. The last national evaluation of Tech Prep programs, conducted in 1997, found that Tech Prep programs were not always implemented as envisioned in the legislation, perhaps lessening their impact on student outcomes.

The Department provides funding under the Perkins Act to help states and local educational agencies implement effective Tech Prep programs. The Act also supports the Tech Prep Demonstration Program, which currently provides funds to nine consortia that operate Tech Prep programs at high schools located on community college campuses. These programs support students' transitions to postsecondary education through dual enrollment, access to advanced facilities and labs, and exposure to college life.

Research and Evaluation

  • Career and Technical Education in the Balance: An Analysis of High School Persistence, Academic Achievement, and Postsecondary Destinations (National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, 2001) [downloadable files] PDF (289K). This study examines the relationship between Tech Prep programs of study and students' academic achievement, risks of dropping out, and postsecondary enrollments and employment.

  • A Comparison of Selected Outcomes of Secondary Tech Prep Participants and Non-Participants in Texas (Journal of Vocational Education Research, 2000). A five-year analysis of selected outcomes of grade 10-12 students enrolled in public high schools, comparing three sub-groups of students based on participation in career and technology programs, including tech prep.

  • Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program (FETPIP) Annual Outcomes Reports. These reports are cited by Bragg et al as useful materials for comparing Tech Prep and non-Tech Prep students.

  • Focus for the Future: The Final Report of the National Tech-Prep Evaluation (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc, 1998). A report concluding that only an estimated 8% of students nationally were involved in Tech Prep activities and only 1% were enrolled in structured programs of study.

  • The Neglected Majority. In his 1985 work, author Dale Parnell introduces a four-year program of instruction that integrates secondary and postsecondary education through the 2+2 tech prep/associate degree program. Order from the Community College Press.

  • Promising Outcomes for Tech Prep Participants in Eight Local Consortia: A Summary of Initial Results (National Centers for Career and Technical Education, 2001) [downloadable files] PDF (402K). A longitudinal study by Bragg et al of the experiences of Tech Prep students in urban, suburban, and rural sites representing eight local Tech Prep consortia across the country. Also, see Promising Tech Prep Practices, a summary of the study provided by the National Centers for Career and Technical Education.

  • Tech Prep/Associate Degree: A Win-Win Experience. Rationale, guidelines, structures, and processes for forming and operating associate degree programs. Contact CORD about the availability of this publication.

  • Tech Prep Implementation and Preliminary Student Outcomes for Eight Local Tech Prep Consortia [downloadable files] PDF (2,084K). 1999 report by Bragg et al providing Tech Prep findings to date.

Noteworthy Practices

  • Excellence in Tech Prep Awards. During the years 1991-1998, the U.S. Department of Education in cooperation with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) conducted a program for recognizing exemplary Tech Prep programs.

  • Exemplary Tech Prep Programs Combining College Connections and Work-Based Learning Opportunities (CORD, 2000) . Highlights eleven effective sites where schools, colleges, and employers have worked together articulate relationships between work-based learning experiences of students and secondary and postsecondary education.

  • Exemplary and Promising Career and Technical Education Programs. From the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education, promising and exemplary programs were identified in years 2000, 2001 and 2002.

  • Tech Prep of the Rio Grande Valley has developed the Tech Prep Texas Scholars Program, which is the model for the State Scholars Initiative. See also Tech Prep Texas .

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Last Modified: 10/16/2007