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Reactions to Perkins III Specifications
Perkins III brought some policy changes intended to provide more flexibility to states and local grantees but also to hold them more accountable for their actions. Three specific types of changes concern Perkins funding, accountability and services to special populations and other groups.
State and local education agencies directed funds in line with legislative intent. Perkins funds were crucial for supporting technology-related activities at the local level.
Perkins III specified both allowable and required use of funds and also changed the allocation of funds so that a larger proportion went directly to local districts, from 75 percent to 85 percent of the total state allocation.
State expenditure of leadership funds was directed primarily at three areas: curriculum development and dissemination, professional development of vocational education teachers, and development of standards and assessments.
At the local level expenditures also appeared to be in line with legislative intent. Perkins funds were particularly crucial for supporting technology-related activitiesequipment, software, Internet support and the like. However, the flexibility in Perkins also permitted states and local grantees latitude, which allowed for considerable variation in spending patterns across the study sites.
Accountability mechanisms in Perkins III were not yet in place.
The states in this study were in the first year of implementing their state plans and accountability systems at the time of the field study. They varied in their ability to comply with the reporting requirements of Perkins III. Most state data systems were still incomplete, although states that developed standards and measures in response to Perkins II were more prepared to comply than others were.
Few local sites had changed their data collection as a result of Perkins, although many reported changes to comply with state data collection requirements.
It is simply too soon to tell whether the accountability measures adopted in Perkins III will exert greater control over state and local expenditures and efforts.
The elimination of set-asides to fund activities in support of students from certain groups reduced staff dedicated to these students. The full impact of changes is not yet known.
Perkins III amended the definition of special populations but also eliminated the set-asides to fund activities in support of students from certain groups. While the latter change was intended to provide greater flexibility at the local level, it also raised questions about how services might be affected. Perkins III also required states to provide separate reports on the performance of students from special populations and to report on participation in programs leading to nontraditional employment. Five of the seven states made reductions in state-level gender-equity staffand sometimes other positionsas a result of the elimination of the set-aside.
Although a few local sites seemed pleased with the flexibility afforded in Perkins III, most reported possible negative effects, including staff reductions.
The study revealed a complex picture concerning participation and access. Four states had differentiated programs of study or alternative requirements for some students. In some cases, these requirements had improved services for students at the local level, but in others they isolated students or reduced their access to the highest-quality programs.
Respondents in the case studies and teacher survey indicated that vocational education programs enrolled a disproportionate share of students from special population groupsa perception that the study is unable to verify with the data at hand. It is certainly the case that in some localities vocational education was still perceived as the educational alternative for the academically less able.