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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The School-to-Work Movement: Four Reports Look Back

Understanding the 1994 School-to-Work Opportunities Act.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

A handbook for individuals and organizations that are engaged in connecting community resources with schools.

Credit: School-to-Work Intermediary Project

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 was created to support state and local educational reform initiatives. The legislation grew out of research demonstrating an absence of systems connecting school and work. All fifty states received School-to-Work (STW) funds, and while there have been varying degrees of success, the results overall have been promising. Federal legislation is set to end in October 2001, and many agencies have been gathering information to ensure that positive elements of the school-to-work movement continue to be extended and supported throughout the United States.

The following reports discuss the successes, challenges, and future of the school-to-work movement and its impact on public education.

The Intermediary Guidebook: Making and Managing Community Connections for Youth

New collaborations are emerging at all levels of education, designed to promote young people's self-confidence about their abilities, increase their connections to adults and opportunities, and foster the academic and work-related competencies they need to succeed. First published in October 2000 and updated May 2001, The Intermediary Guidebook is designed for people and organizations who are engaging in these partnership efforts. It brings together the experience and lessons of the School-to-Work Intermediary Project, which is a joint effort of Jobs for the Future and New Ways to Work.

The Intermediary Guidebook contains three fold-out charts to assist in the planning process. A CD-ROM appendix contains a wide variety of project tools, nine case studies, five issue briefs, fifty snapshots of promising practices, and brief profiles of forty-three member organizations of the Intermediary Network.

You can obtain the report through New Ways to Work or Jobs for the Future. A PDF version of this report is available at the Intermediary Network.

This report compiles research examining the effects of recent school-to-work activities.

Credit: IEE, Teachers College, Columbia University

School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education

Released in February 2001, this report from the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE) at Teachers College, Columbia University, is a synthesis of the lessons learned over the past seven years. The studies described in the report reflect the early effects of the school-to-work movement on educators, students, and employers. While there have been many positive outcomes, it remains to be seen if these will translate into long-term effects on college enrollments and career success. Among the accomplishments since the legislation passed in 1994 are:

  • Students demonstrate improved attendance and goals and are less likely to drop out.
  • Participating employers and teachers are generally enthusiastic about STW and believe it is beneficial to themselves, their organizations, and their employers/students.
  • Career Academies that link corporate involvement to secondary school education and foster small learning communities are cited as an especially effective model.
  • There are indications that STW funds have stimulated creation of new systems that will endure. More than half the states have enacted legislation to maintain or expand the initiatives that began with federal funds.

The report also describes some areas that will need improvement including:

  • Evidence on the effects of STW on standardized test scores.
  • Evidence on whether STW has a positive effect on college enrollment and completion and labor market success.
  • Only a small proportion of all students participate in all elements of STW: rigorous applied academics, intensive work-based learning, and comprehensive career development.

A free PDF version of the report is available on the IEE, Teachers College Web site.

Looking Forward: School-to-Work Principles and Strategies for Sustainability

Published in June 2000 by the American Youth Policy Forum and the Center for Workforce Development, Institute for Educational Leadership, this report documents promising initiatives, partnerships, and reform supported by the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA). Through a series of sponsored discussions with key stakeholders at the national and local levels, the report unveils ten essential principles that summarize elements from the STWOA and strategies used in the field:

  • STW promotes high standards of academic learning and performance for all young people.
  • STW incorporates industry-values standards that help inform curricula and lead to respected and portable credentials.
  • STW assists employers in providing high-quality, work-based learning opportunities.
  • STW connects young people with supportive adults, mentors, and other role models.

The report reviews a number of federal education and training laws that may provide further support for STW programs. Also included are recommendations and suggestions for several stakeholder groups to ensure the STW movement continues to progress.

A free PDF version of the report is available from the American Youth Policy Forum.

Career Academies: Impacts on Students’ Engagement and Performance in High School

Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation's March 2000 report is an extensive review of a promising approach to high school restructuring and the school-to-work transition. Students in the study sample were identified in the eighth or ninth grade and followed until shortly before high school graduation. The report focuses on three questions:

  • To what extent does the Career Academy approach alter the high school environment in ways that better support students academically and developmentally?
  • To what extent does the Career Academy approach change educational, employment, and youth development outcomes for students at greater or lesser risk of failure?
  • How do the manner and context in which Career Academy programs are implemented influence their effects on student outcomes?

Some of the key findings of the report are:

  • The Career Academies in this study increased both the levels of interpersonal support students experienced during high school and their participation in career awareness and work-based learning activities.
  • The Career Academies substantially improved high school outcomes among students at risk of dropping out. For this group, the Academies reduced dropout rates, improved attendance, increased academic course taking, and increased the likelihood of earning enough credits to graduate on time.
  • In sites where the Academies did not enhance interpersonal support for high-risk and medium-risk subgroups, dropout rates increased and school engagement was reduced for some students.
  • While participation in school-to-career programs resulted in many positive outcomes, the Career Academies did not improve standardized math and reading achievement test scores.

A free copy of the full report, including policy implications and descriptions of the Career Academy approach, is available. To obtain a printed copy contact Publications Department, MDRC, 16 East 34th Street, New York, NY 10016.

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