Recent studies have criticized public education, creating public demand for schools to strengthen their curricula in the basic skills. In response, educational policymakers in many areas of the country have increased the number of academic credits necessary for high school graduation. During 1984, at least 44 states increased their graduation requirements for science, math, and English (Delaware Department of Public Instruction, 1985). The amount of time left for vocational education courses has thus been reduced, and a debate has arisen over the amount and type of vocational courses needed. One group argues that because many non-college bound high school students may eventually attend college, a broad background in the basic skills is necessary; another group counters that raising the number of academic courses required for high school graduation will deprive non-college bound students of the time needed for concrete training in the occupations they will enter after high school. This overview will examine one possible solution to the dilemma: the policy of granting academic credit for basic skills training provided in vocational classrooms.
WHICH BASIC SKILLS CAN BE TAUGHT IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION?
National and state surveys of teachers, administrators, and representatives of the business community reveal a consensus that vocational education should do more than prepare a student for a specific occupation. A survey conducted in New York State indicated that besides providing training in the basic technical skills that are common to a cluster of jobs, vocational education courses should include instruction in 14 additional areas. Listed in ranked order, these are: (1) employability skills; (2) abilities in problem solving, communications, decision making, interpersonal relationships, and resource management; (3) technological literacy; (4) ability to cope with life situations; (5) technical reading, writing and mathematics skills related to a specific occupational or practical arts instructional program; (6) career awareness; (7) basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills; (8) safety; (9) knowledge of basic economic concepts; (10) ability to take advantage of inevitable change; (11) technical skills specific to one job; (12) awareness of the role and responsibility of individuals working alone and in groups; (13) ability to manage a home and personal business affairs; and (14) the capacity for self-fulfilling use of leisure time (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1986).
Attempting to address each of these areas while at the same time providing a rigorous, hands-on program of instruction in a specific occupational area may seem unrealistically ambitious, but evidence confirms that many vocational programs already include a significant amount of instruction in at least some of these skill areas. For example, vocational education students, teachers, parents, and business and industry representatives in North Carolina were asked to review existing and revised curriculum materials for three vocational programs. Results indicated that the materials included significantly more instruction in science and math skills than the respondents had imagined (Holsey and Rosenfeld, 1985; Rosenfeld and Holsey, 1985).
WHICH PROGRAMS AWARD ACADEMIC CREDIT FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION?
As of 1985, 11 states had a policy allowing vocational credit to be counted in lieu of science or math, and 16 states gave local school districts jurisdiction over course credit approval. Only three states had a policy prohibiting credit allowance for occupational and technical subjects as a substitute for math, science, or any other required subject (Delaware Department of Public Instruction, 1985). Described below are four approaches to granting academic credit for basic skills instruction provided in vocational education courses.
NEW YORK STATE REGENTS ACTION PLAN
New York is an example of a state with a highly structured, centralized policy regarding the awarding of academic credit for vocational education. Beginning with the class of 1988, all students were to have been required to complete two units in mathematics and two units in science. However, these regulations were modified so that, effective September 1, 1985, students pursuing an approved sequence in occupational education and a local diploma could satisfy one of the two required units in either or both of the subject areas by completing a course in occupationally related mathematics and/or occupationally related science. Each of these courses is a second-year course that uses state-developed syllabi and curriculum materials. For those students pursuing a Regents diploma, however, only Regents mathematics courses may be used to fulfill the math requirement (Kadamus and Daggett, 1986).
VIRGINIA'S 20-CREDIT HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA
Like New York, Virginia has a state policy for awarding academic credit for vocational education. In 1984 Virginia increased its requirements for high school graduation from an 18- to a 20-credit minimum. The new diploma requires 2 years of math, 2 years of laboratory science, 3 years of social studies, and 4 years of English. Because of these increased requirements, a policy was formulated allowing students to fulfill the math and science requirements by completing a state-approved, 300-hour instructional sequence in agriculture, business, distribution, health occupations, occupational home economics, and trade and industrial education. Although the original standards did not permit substitution from the areas of industrial arts or home economics, efforts were initiated to develop alternative credit options in these areas as well. Unlike the New York policy, however, Virginia's policy allowed individual districts that wished to include specific substitution options not spelled out in the regulations to submit them to the appropriate program for approval (Brown, 1984).
GREAT OAKS JOINT VOCATIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, CINCINNATI, OHIO
An experimental model for five vocational programs (dental assisting, chef's training, electronics, welding, and industrial maintenance) was developed in Cincinnati's Great Oaks Joint Vocational School District. The plan involved condensing the vocational instruction formerly provided in the traditional 4 1/2-hour instructional period into a new 3-hour instructional block and having the related instruction in math, science, and communications skills, subjects which were formerly taught by vocational instructors, handled by trained subject matter specialists. This new division in instruction was coordinated by (1) sequencing the content of the five vocational programs into duty blocks and task areas, (2) having vocational and academic subject matter teachers develop related job or task sheets, and (3) assigning teachers in both areas weekly duties to ensure continued coordination of instruction throughout the individual courses (Migal, 1984).
2 + 2 TECH-PREP/ASSOCIATE DEGREE PROGRAM
The 2 + 2 model is a 4-year program providing for a closely coordinated course of technical study that takes place during the last 2 years of high school and 2 years at the community college level. The program is targeted toward non-college bound students who are preparing to enter one of the increasing number of midlevel technical occupations that require some, but not baccalaureate-level, postsecondary education and training. The key structural elements of the 2 + 2 program are (1) a formal articulation agreement outlining the details of a close coordination between high school and college curricula; (2) a sequence of applied courses in the basic skills that are intentionally preparatory in nature; (3) instruction by high school teachers during the first 2 years of study, but with provision for student access to college staff and facilities when appropriate; and (4) use of a career clusters and a technical systems study approach in which students have a clearly defined view of the 4-year structure of their program of study. Thus, the key to the model is not when or in which institution the technical part of the instruction is provided, but rather that the instruction provided is coordinated to the greatest degree possible, thereby permitting the most unified and efficient course of training. Exemplary 2 + 2 projects include a program to train master technicians with broad educational backgrounds in Newport News, Virginia, and a training program in agriculture education that is offered in Bakersfield, California (Parnell, 1985).
HOW CAN SUCH PROGRAMS BE DEVELOPED?
One of the first steps in developing a program to award academic credit for vocational education is to gain community and staff support. The previously mentioned North Carolina surveys (Holsey and Rosenfeld, 1985; Rosenfeld and Holsey, 1985) illustrate one strategy for increasing awareness of the extent to which basic skills are already being covered in vocational classrooms. The Corvallis School District (1986a, 1986b) in Corvallis, Oregon has published companion implementation and in-service guides that include detailed guidelines for developing standards for program certification and monitoring and for ensuring adequate orientation and development of communication and mutual respect between instructors of academic subject matter and vocational instructors. Another point to remember is the importance of obtaining input from the business and industry community when instructional content and course standards are determined.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Brown, K. "The Vocational Approach to Math and Science." VOCED 59(7) (October 1984): 35-36.
Corvallis School District. IMPLEMENTATION GUIDE FOR AN INTEGRATED VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND MATH SKILLS MODEL. Corvallis, OR: Corvallis School District, 1986a. ED 273 792.
Corvallis School District. INSERVICE GUIDE FOR AN INTEGRATED VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND MATH SKILLS MODEL. Corvallis, OR: Corvallis School District, 1986b. ED 273 793.
Delaware Department of Public Instruction. APPLYING THE ACADEMICS: A TASK FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION. Dover: Delaware Department of Public Instruction, 1985. ED 259 143.
Holsey, Lilla G., and Vila M. Rosenfeld. SCIENCE COMPETENCIES IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION. BUSINESS AND OFFICE EDUCATION, CONSUMER AND HOMEMAKING EDUCATION, MARKETING AND DISTRIBUTIVE EDUCATION. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University, 1985. ED 267 253.
Kadamus, J.A., and W.R. Daggett. NEW DIRECTIONS FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL. Information Series no. 311. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, The National Center for Research in Vocational Education. The Ohio State University, 1986. ED 272 771.
Migal, C.A. "Teachers Are Part of the Team." VOCED 59(5) (1984): 42-44.
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. LITERATURE REVIEW ON IMPROVING SECONDARY VOCATIONAL EDUCATION EFFECTIVENESS. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1986. ED 267 276.
Parnell, D. THE NEGLECTED MAJORITY. Washington, DC: The Community College Press, 1985. ED 262 843.
Rosenfeld, Vila M., and Lilla G. Holsey. MATHEMATICS COMPETENCIES IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION, BUSINESS AND OFFICE EDUCATION, CONSUMER AND HOMEMAKING EDUCATION, MARKETING AND DISTRIBUTIVE EDUCATION. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University, 1985. ED 267 252.