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IJER Vol 22-N4

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The mission of the International Journal of Educational Reform (IJER) is to keep readers up-to-date with worldwide developments in education reform by providing scholarly information and practical analysis from recognized international authorities. As the only peer-reviewed scholarly publication that combines authors’ voices without regard for the political affiliations perspectives, or research methodologies, IJER provides readers with a balanced view of all sides of the political and educational mainstream. To this end, IJER includes, but is not limited to, inquiry based and opinion pieces on developments in such areas as policy, administration, curriculum, instruction, law, and research.
IJER should thus be of interest to professional educators with decision-making roles and policymakers at all levels turn since it provides a broad-based conversation between and among policymakers, practitioners, and academicians about reform goals, objectives, and methods for success throughout the world.
Readers can call on IJER to learn from an international group of reform implementers by discovering what they can do that has actually worked. IJER can also help readers to understand the pitfalls of current reforms in order to avoid making similar mistakes. Finally, it is the mission of IJER to help readers to learn about key issues in school reform from movers and shakers who help to study and shape the power base directing educational reform in the U.S. and the world.

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Introduction to the Second Special Issue on Programs of Study as Secondary School Reform

ePub

Sam Stringfield





The subtitle to Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s best-selling That Used to Be Us (2011) lays out a key challenge to the United States for the 21st century: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. In truth, their prescription would work well for any country. In seeking a plausible, productive path forward, Friedman and Mandelbaum spend four chapters and over a quarter of their book on education. The sobering title to the last of those education chapters is “Average Is Over.”

What we Americans—and other nations—have done in public education will not carry us successfully through our current century or even decade. One of the great challenges that we face is how to best prepare the 69% of young Americans who will not graduate from 4-year colleges to succeed in a global information economy.

In this issue and the spring 2012 issue of International Journal of Educational Reform, the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education reports on a series of studies designed to find productive ways to engage high school students in far-above-average, intellectually challenging, practically based educations. In the current language of preparation for college and careers, these are called programs of study (POSs). As Stipanovic, Lewis, and Stringfield (2012) describe, POSs represent an evolutionary step beyond what, in the United States, is called vocational education. Today’s POSs provide more intensive academic preparation while preparing young people with the career-focused practical skills and “soft” skills (e.g., good work habits, confidence, leadership) necessary to succeed in work, community colleges, and universities. The spring 2012 issue also provides descriptions of three longitudinal studies funded by the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education on diverse questions related to POSs: Castellano, Sun-dell, Overman, and Aliaga (2012) gathered quantitative and qualitative data on student outcomes in an unusually rigorous test of POSs in three states. Alfeld and Bhattacharya (2012) reported on an effort to examine the extent to which POSs are achieving their goal of guiding more young people to community colleges and 4-year colleges. Withington and colleagues (2012) closely followed South Carolina’s legislatively mandated efforts to provide career awareness and a career focus to every student in the state. To the extent that effort succeeds in increasing graduation rates, college attendance, and successful transitions into the world of work, the state’s Economic and Educational Development Act may become a model for the nation.

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If Programs of Study Are the Solution, What Is the Problem?

ePub

James R. Stone III






ABSTRACT: Programs of study are the most recent in a series of federal efforts to create a more transparent and rational system for school-to-work transition for all youth. The current article places this construct in the context of today’s labor market and the new focus on college and career readiness for all students. It then provides evidence indicating that all students need a mix of academic, employability, and technical skills to graduate ready for college and careers. Furthermore, it posits that effective programs of study enhance student engagement with school, improve academic and technical achievement, and facilitate students’ transition to continued education beyond high school and into the workplace.

Programs of study (POSs) are the most recent effort in the United States to improve the transition of youth from high school to the workplace. Unlike most other industrialized nations, the U.S. educational system lacks the formal structures—such as apprenticeships—that facilitate this transition. Indeed, the United States has no national system linking education and the workforce. Understanding what is called vocational education and training internationally and career and technical education (CTE) in the United States should begin with an understanding that the United States has no defined system for either. American CTE is a nonsystem built on a series of ad hoc fixes begun in 1862. Instead of a national system, the 50 states serve as primary governing bodies, making and carrying out education policy. In many states, local school districts are the primary leaders in education. So, in place of a national authority exerting a governance function over all education—as we find in most industrialized nations—in the United States, schools, state and local governments, and business organizations have operated in loose partnerships with the federal government in seeking to support youth in successfully and efficiently transitioning from public education to further education or the workplace. The federal government has only minimal influence on public education and then only through achievement standards or other incentives (e.g., Race to the Top funding) tied to federal grants.

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Programs of Study: A Cross-Study Examination of Programs in Three States

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Sam Stringfield
Robert Shumer
Natalie Stipanovic
Nora Murphy



ABSTRACT: The National Research Center on Career and Technical Education has supported four studies on one of the major components of Perkins legislation: programs of study. In this article, we present qualitative data linking the research center’s longitudinal projects based on programs of study, via a one-time cross-case study of sites deemed highly promising by the authors of the previous studies. These analyses included an effort to subject these sites to examination of 10 elements recently deemed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education to be important to the success of programs of study. Additional cross-cutting themes observed across the three sites are also examined—including engagement, cross-program learning, career-relevant certifications, seamless pathways, enhanced respect for and valuing of career and technical education, and the importance identifying, developing, and retaining high-quality teachers.

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A Qualitative Inquiry of Career Exploration in Highly Implemented Career and Technical Education Programs of Study

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Natalie Stipanovic
Sam Stringfield



ABSTRACT: This qualitative study explores career counseling and guidance services as provided to students engaged in career and technical education programs at three sites in the United States. The sites, consisting of high schools and community colleges, were part of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education’s 5-year studies of programs of study and were identified as providing highly implemented programs of study. This article provides insights about the career services offered in these systems of programs of study, with special attention paid to the role of school counselors. We found that career development occurs in a variety of forms and is provided by counselors and career and technical education teachers. However, the most comprehensive services were provided in settings where school counseling programs were highly developed and supported.

Finding stable and profitable employment in today’s global economy requires a combination of education, training, specialized work skills, and career know-how. In a highly competitive market with limited job availability, students need specific knowledge and skills to find careers that meet their personal needs and that fulfill demands within their communities. Career and technical education (CTE) is increasingly seen as an effective means of providing students with the academic and work-related skills needed to prepare them to be college and career ready (Partnerships for 21st Century Skills, 2010). CTE provides training in a variety of occupations, marries academic content with real-world relevance, and is situated within career pathways providing a link between secondary and postsecondary education (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2011).

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Programs of Study: Development Efforts in Six States

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Robert Shumer
Cynthia Digby






ABSTRACT: Educational reform in the United States is perpetually evolving. Much of the recent reforms have concentrated on high-stakes testing and assessment, but a parallel effort has been emerging in the field of vocational and career education. Prompted partly by federal legislation—most recently by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (also known as Perkins IV)—the field has been dramatically altered to include a renewed vision of vocational education. The Perkins IV legislation officially changed the title and focus of the efforts, installing the name career and technical education as the replacement for the older version of vocational education and training. Armed with this new name, the focus of the reforms took on new perspectives, adding a career education focus and broadening the goals to include academic learning with vocational/work-based learning. The result has been a renewed effort to make all students “college and career ready.”

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