Archived InformationThe Quality of Vocational Education, June 1998
If change is unsettling, these are indeed agitated times. Change and the resultant agitation are especially apparent as our nation's leaders and scholars debate the content and processes that must be in place to insure that American youth and adults are adequately prepared for realities of the modern workplace, contemporary society, and the international arena -- now and in the future.
Literally scores of policy-oriented documents have been published in the last 10 years demanding that schools educate better all children, youth, and adults. The government (through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990 -- Perkins II) has called for a different type of education and for redirected training programs to prepare our nation's students for the 21st century workplace. Many, many reform initiatives have been conceptualized, implemented, and (sometimes) evaluated in the public schools during the past ten years -- often with mixed results (see, for example, Bottoms, Presson, & Johnson, 1992; Council of Chief State School Officers, 1991; National Assessment of Vocational Education, 1989; National Center on Education and the Economy, 1990; Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1992; William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship, 1988).
Generally researchers and policy groups conclude that long-term sustaining, substantive changes will occur in public education only if implemented at the grassroots level -- in local schools and by classroom teachers. But, too often, local personnel seem unable, unwilling, or insufficiently informed to make necessary changes. And thus, many recent education reform efforts have met with mixed results.
Recently, the Education Commission of the States placed "part of the blame" for the disappointing results of various education reform movements at the doors of colleges and universities that have failed to rehabilitate teacher training. This report as well as many others addressing education reform cite particularly the inability of teachers, school administrators, and other educational leaders (e.g., school boards) to negotiate curricular, pedagogical, and technological changes needed to bring about meaningful reform in public education. Scholars and observers of education say higher education institutions are not adequately preparing teachers (and school leaders) for change and are not addressing essential elements in school reform.
Similar comments emanate from state and local administrators responsible for vocational and technical education as they wrestle with the necessary changes underlying Perkins II. Commentary -- often accusatory in tone -- ranges from the non-responsiveness of colleges and universities to reform initiatives in vocational and technical education, low production of vocational and technical education teachers, poor preparation of beginning teachers, aging of the professorate, and on and on and on.
Through the 1990 Perkins Act [Section 403 -- the National Assessment of Vocational Education Programs (NAVE)], Congress instructed the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) to conduct a national assessment of vocational education programs assisted under the Act. As part of the assessment, Congress asked for information about the preparation and qualifications of teachers of vocational and academic curricula in vocational education programs, as well as shortages of such teachers.
This paper has been prepared in partial response to the Congressional mandate to OERI. Its purpose is to provide data and information about the preparation of vocational and technical education teachers as it currently exists at our nation's colleges and universities. In addition, the paper provides information about the responsiveness of vocational teacher education in four major initiatives identified in Perkins II: (a) tech prep, (b) integration of academic and vocational education content and programs, (c) school-to-work transition and interaction with business and industry, and (d) work with special populations. Finally, the paper highlights a few issues that the author considers integral to assessment of vocational education, circa 1994.