Assessing the Quality of Vocational Education in High Schools
Cathleen Stasz, RAND
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1The views expressed here are the author's alone and should not be attributed to RAND or the Department.

2 The Office of Vocational and Adult Education and the National School-to-Work Office are currently co-sponsoring several projects to design and provide inservice and preservice teacher training programs that emphasize contextual teaching and learning.

3 See Bailey and Merritt (1995) for a review of these projects.

4 At the NAVE Advisory Panel Meeting in May 1999, several participants discussed the need to address the future of vocational education in an era of school reform. Whole school reform models are more likely to address the complexity of issues that arise in implementing integration-related reforms and provide some examples of how vocational education can be a vital part of the high school program.

5 Several sources are useful for defining characteristics of contextualized learning, including Collins, Greeno, and Resnick 1989, 1994; Williams 1992; Newmann and Wehlage 1995, and the federally supported contextualized teaching and learning projects currently underway.

6 Another way to identify teachers and programs is to select subject areas, such as mathematics or English/communication, within a broader range of industry or career areas. The National Advisory Panel for NAVE could provide useful input into sampling decisions.

7 Teacher education and background characteristics can provide some indicator of quality, although a more robust analysis of quality would require detailed personnel data for a large number of teachers. A few states have such data (e.g., Texas, New York) and if available for states in the sample, then a related study of teacher quality and broader teacher labor market issues could be conducted.

8With current technology, the estimated cost is about $1,000-$1,500 per video observation, which includes costs for a professional videographer, transfer of video to CD-ROM format, transcription, transfer to analysis software, initial data coding.

9There are many technical and measurement issues associated with different assessment strategies, which are best reviewed when specific alternatives are being considered. It is beyond the scope of this paper to select and consider all the possible options.

10 Work Keys was developed by American College Testing (ACT) to assess twelve "generic" employability skills. At least one state (Ohio) uses this assessment statewide for high school students.

11See Hanser and Stasz (1999) for a description of these limitations in the context of a study that used within and between school analysis to examines effects of participation in a career academy program.

12 For a recent review of methods for assessing curriculum and pedagogy see Brewer and Stasz (1996).

13 The need for specific exemplars cannot be overemphasized. To be useful to teachers, any conception of contextualized teaching must include specific descriptions of teaching strategies and tactics, teacher roles, and classroom design principles.

14 For a study of teaching reduced and regular size classrooms, our research team obtained releases from teachers and their third grade students which permits use of classroom videos for any research or training purposes.

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Last Modified: 11/14/2005