Government Will Monitor Vocational Education

Last week Congress reauthorized spending for the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which provides funding for technical career based courses in high schools and colleges. Vocational education can be an excellent alternative for students who prefer hands on technical training over the rigors of a traditional classroom.

According to a press release by the Department of Education, “For the first time, Career and Technical Education [CTE] programs will be held accountable for continuous improvement in performance, measured by the academic proficiency of CTE students. Success will be determined through valid and reliable tests, including No Child Left Behind assessments in reading, math and science. These changes will help ensure that students graduate with the academic skills valued by employers and colleges alike. We now look forward to working with Congress to promote accountability, high standards and rigorous coursework in our high schools, essential to staying competitive in the global economy.”

I was surprised to see that the Perkins Act had not been updated since 1998 and did not previously fall under the rigors of the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 11 million people are served by the vocational education system in the United States. According to the National Association of State Boards of Education, Courses that are usually taken through vocational schools include “Business, trade and industry, health, agriculture, family and consumer sciences, marketing, and technology.”

Under the recently passed law, that the President is expected to sign, States will be required to administer “Career programs that will give students a broad base of academic skills, not just technical ones. In exchange for money, states and school districts must produce more evidence that students are making progress and landing good jobs. The legislation would require states to come up with model sequences of courses from high school through college. The goal is to give students a clear path of training for work.”

Many people argue that one of the problems in education today stem from the thought that the pre-NCLB education programming lacked specificity in providing real-life skills that can be transferred to a job after graduation. For example how many times have you heard a young person ask why he or she has to take algebra? Unless you are a math major, and other than offering a little practice in problem solving skills, algebra does not transfer well into a real life job skill.

I hope that this latest mandate from the government will help students to gain the skills they need to be effective citizens in the current information age economy.