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Career Clusters™ Institute Blog Series: If Programs of Study Are the Solution, What Is the Problem?

This blog series provides readers with insight on the valuable content that will be shared at the upcoming Career Clusters ™ Institute. Guest bloggers are among teachers, faculty, researchers and other experts that will present at the national gathering in Washington, DC in June.

Dr. James R. Stone, III is the Director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE) at the University of Louisville. Dr. Stone’s research has focused on strategies that improve the capacity of CTE programs to improve the engagement, achievement, and transition of secondary and postsecondary CTE participants, including longitudinal studies on the effects of work-based learning and the effect of whole-school, CTE-based school reforms on educational outcomes of youth in high-poverty communities. A former editor for the Journal of Vocational Education Research, Stone has published numerous articles, books, and book chapters on CTE.

Programs of study (POS) are the most recent effort in the United States to improve the transition of youth from high school to the workplace. In most industrialized nations, one national institution governs education; in the United States, schools, state and local governments, and business organizations—operating in very loose partnerships with the federal government—have sought to support youth in successfully and efficiently transitioning from public education to further education or careers.

As a result, the default structural support for youth transition to the labor market has become what most term “college,” usually defined as a degree from a two-year or four-year postsecondary institution. Believing that the high school diploma no longer signifies a meaningful standard of achievement, and lacking a national system of industry credentials, employers have come to rely on college degrees as proof of preparedness and competency. This assumption has, for better or worse, led to the notion of “college for all” as the best means of preparing all youth for the emergent labor market.

“College for all” has evolved in recent years to incorporate the idea that public education ought to prepare youth for college and careers. “College and career readiness” is a phrase that has captured the imagination if not the vocabulary of state and federal policymakers in the United States as the solution to preparing all youth for a successful adulthood.

Yet the youth of today are moving into an uncertain labor market marked by high unemployment, changing skill demands, and intense global competition. POS are seen as the key to achieving a truly career and college-ready high school graduate who will be prepared to succeed in these uncertain times.

Three questions have driven the National Research Center’s POS research agenda, tied to our overarching interest in student engagement, achievement, and transition. If POS are fully implemented:

  • Will more students graduate from high school—evidence of their engagement?
  • Will students’ academic and technical achievement increase?
  • Will more students transition successfully into the workplace or further education and training?

Learn more about what the research shows are the measurable effects of POS on increasing student engagement, improving student achievement, and enhancing student transition to further education and work by attending Jim Stone’s presentation entitled National Research Center for CTE: what the Research Reveals about Programs of Study at the 2012 Career Clusters™ Institute.

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

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