ERIC Identifier: ED367415
Publication Date: 1994-03-00
Author: Prager, Carolyn
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Tech Prep/Associate Degree (TPAD) Academic Outcomes. ERIC
In "The Neglected Majority," Parnell (1985) maintained that students in the
two middle high school quartiles neither prepare for nor aspire to baccalaureate
study. Instead, they leave high school without education or training suited to
an increasingly sophisticated technological workplace. Parnell conceived of tech
prep as an articulated high school/community or technical college program of
formalized studies to reach the "neglected majority" by integrating the 11th
through 14th year of occupational-technical curricula. In essence, he proposed
making tech prep a new and different college prep track. Blending the liberal
and practical arts, it would run parallel to the historic academic track but
lead to an associate rather than a baccalaureate degree (Hull, 1991).
Tech prep became virtually a national community college mission statement
during and after Parnell's tenure as president of the American Association of
Junior and Community Colleges (AACJC). In its 1989 "Joint Policy Statement on
Federal Relations," the AACJC urged the federal government to give "as much
emphasis to technical education and critical skill needs as to academic and
research pursuits." The Association lobbied aggressively for supplemental
financial support to "enhance technical education programs with emphasis on
assisting individuals to attain basic literacy, math competency, critical
thinking, and responsibility skills." One of the ways suggested by the AACJC for
improving technical education was through incentive grants for the development
of 2 + 2 articulated curriculum in technical education.
Today, tech prep is a cornerstone of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and
Technology Act Amendments of 1990 (Hull and Parnell, 1991). It represents the
first major federal initiative promoting comprehensive, sustained links between
secondary and two-year college sectors. Federal financial backing for this
approach to 2 + 2 secondary-postsecondary articulation is $63.4 million for
FY'91, $90 million for '92, and $104.16 million for '93. Local and state support
also grows. North Carolina, for example, is planning to expand the TPAD program
to all public school and community college service areas to increase the
percentage of high school graduates (Community College Week, 1/20/92, p. 4). A
1989 national survey of two-year institutions found 37% of respondents involved
already in 2 + 2 tech prep programs (National Council for Occupational
Since 1990, the AACJC has offered TPAD Program Partnership Awards to
community colleges for the development of articulated curricula involving the
colleges, local secondary schools, and employers. The criteria listed in the
Awards Committee's "Characteristics of Excellence in Tech Prep Programs" (1991)
include the following:
curricula that emphasize as outcomes enhanced skills that would not be possible
if secondary and postsecondary curricula were followed separately;
modification at both the secondary and postsecondary levels;
on enriched applied instruction in mathematics, science, communication, and
technology principles at the secondary level; and
As one outcome for
secondary/postsecondary tech prep programs, the Perkins legislation specifies
achievement of academic competence in mathematics, science, and communications
to be acquired, in part, through applied academics. Hull (1991) calls applied
academics the foundation for technical careers requiring academic skills to
adapt to an ever-changing technological workplace. Pedrotti and Parks (1991)
define applied academics as the integration of a common core of applied math,
science, and communications with immediate work-force applications. Like other
advocates of tech prep, they maintain that "'hand skill'" and "'head'" skill
learning (p. 70) reinforce each other and promote conceptual understandings
transferable to new situations.
According to Pedrotti and Parks (1991), the optimal high school tech prep
academic portion of the curriculum contains two years of principles of
technology (applied physics) and/or another applied science, two years of
applied math, and a course in applied communications. Principles of technology
is one of four widely used secondary-level modularized applied academics courses
developed with financial support from the State Directors of Vocational
Education; it devotes about 50 percent of class time to realistic
problem-solving in laboratory contexts. Applied math contains three hands-on lab
activities for each of its 36 modules stressing data gathering and analysis. The
video-based applied communications course teaches communication and English
language skills relative to the workplace. (For course descriptions, see
Pedrotti and Parks, pp. 63-85; Bottoms, pp. 380-95; and Hull and Parnell,
Appendix B, pp. 364-80, 1991).
TPAD proponents argue that application-rich courses like business letter
writing and business math can be made academically rigorous while requiring
actual skills demonstration (Parnell, 1992). Advocates like Pedrotti and Parks
encourage the extension of the secondary school applied academics concept into
postsecondary education through, for example, emphasizing technical math and/or
technical communications in place of more traditional college courses.
To illustrate, TPAD chemical technology students at Community College of
Rhode Island follow an articulated curriculum that includes algebra and
trigonometry for technology courses as well as modern technical physics.
Electronic engineering technology students take technical math but regular
college physics (Mamaras and Neri, 1992). However, these students still also
take regular college composition, social science, and other general education
courses, raising the question of how well their experience with the applied
approach to general learning prepares them for the more abstract and theoretical
reasoning required in traditional arts and science work.
According to its literature, tech prep is
a win-win alternative to the college prep/baccalaureate degree course of study.
It is deemed to improve academic performance, high school graduation rates, and
college attendance at the associate degree level. Given its recency, however,
tracking the program's effectiveness is difficult (Bryant, 1992).
In promoting improved math, science, and communications competencies for high
school graduates through applied academics, Bottoms (1991) acknowledges the need
to upgrade vocational course academic content and to set performance indicators
for academic achievement in vocational programs. Evaluators need to ask how well
the high school's applied emphases in science, math, and communications prepare
graduates for that part of the community college's liberal arts and science
education outside of the TPAD model. In light of the national movement towards
higher education outcomes assessment, evaluators also need to validate that
applied variants of liberal arts and science courses help students attain
college-level communications, quantitative, and analytic skills.
As an unanticipated outgrowth of TPAD, some 2 + 2 tracks have evolved beyond
the associate degree into articulated 2 + 2 + 2 programs culminating in the
baccalaureate. The latter range from a home economics program involving Rowland
High School, Mt. San Antonio Community College, and California State University
at Long Beach (Stanley, Morse, and Kellett, 1992) to an engineering technology
program linking five high schools, Portland Community College, and the Oregon
Institute of Technology (Hata, 1990). One of the original tenets of tech prep
was the sufficiency of the associate degree to prepare those uninterested in and
unprepared for baccalaureate study for entry-level mid-range technical
occupations like nursing, engineering technology, or banking and insurance.
Evidently, TPAD graduates do transfer into baccalaureate degree programs,
articulated and unarticulated. Therefore, evaluators also need to ask how well
applied academics variants of traditional college writing, mathematics, and
science courses prepare students for transfer to senior institutions.
TECH PREP REVISITED
Despite its wide support, some question
the academic merits of the TPAD approach. Bryant (1992) would revisit tech prep
to better focus it upon programs requiring a higher degree of technical skill.
DiCroce (1989) would revisit tech prep for formulating too narrow a role for the
sector in higher education. Rendon (1992) would reexamine tech prep as a pathway
to the associate degree that appears to diminish access to the bachelor's,
especially for students of color. In the end, however, the concept of tech prep
may have to give way to workplace realities requiring continuing education
through the baccalaureate for most mid-range technical fields. If so, pressure
to create 2 + 2 + 2 programs articulated to the 2 + 2 TPAD may truly test the
TPAD's capacity to meet the academic expectations of the four-year degree.
AACJC Tech Prep/Associate Degree Awards
Committee. (1991) Characteristics of Excellence in Tech Prep Programs.
Washington, D.C.: AACJC.
American Association of Community and Junior Colleges. (1989) Joint Policy
Statement on Federal Relations. Washington, D.C.: AACJC.
Bryant, Donald W. (1992) "Revisiting Tech Prep." The Community College Review
DiCroce, D. M. (1989) "Community College Mission Revisited: Three Recent
Approaches." The Review of Higher Education 12(2): 177-180.
Hata, David M. (1990) Model 2 + 2 + 2 Tech Prep Program in Engineering
Technology. Portland Community College, OR. 32 p.
Hull, Dan; Parnell, Dale. (1991) Tech Prep Associate Degree: A Win/Win
Experience. Waco, TX: Center for Occupational Research and Development.
Mamaras, Judy; Neri, Pat. (1992) 2 + 2 Program Guide: Tech-Prep Associate
Degree Program, Business Administration Associate Degree Program, Office
Administration Associate Degree Program, Allied Health Associate Degree Program.
Warwick, RI: Community College of Rhode Island.
National Council for Occupational Education. (1989) Occupational Program
Articulation. A Report of a Study Prepared by the Task Force on Occupational
Program Articulation. NCOE Monograph Series 12 (1) Wausau, WI: NCOE. 35pp.
Parnell, Dale. (1985) The Neglected Majority. Washington, D.C.: The Community
Parnell, Dale. (1992). "Every Student a Winner: How Tech Prep Can Help
Students Achieve Career Success." Vocational Education Journal, 67(4): 24-26,
Rendon, Laura I. (1992). "Eyes on the Prize: Students of Color and The
Bachelor's Degree." Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education. 14 pp.
Stanley, Patricia; And Others. (1992) "Tech Prep 'Plus': In California,
Win+Win+Win=Bachelor's Degree." Vocational Education Journal, 67(4): 32-33.