The School-to-Career Web


Created by
Ted Nellen


[ The Law | STC History | Federal | States ]
[Schools | Families | Communications | WWW Sites ]

NOTE: When this piece was written in 1997, it was filled with hypertext links, especially to the Clinton government agencies dealing with School-to-Work and to schools engaged in those activities. Many of those links have disappeared, which means you'd be best served by using search techniques, spoken about at the end of this piece to find more current operations. In fact one site was porn-napped.

The Law

School-To-Career (STC) is a government initiative in response to our country's desire that we create a new form of education which links "learning with earning" and prepares our children to compete in a global economy. When society sees a problem it turns to the schools to solve it. President Clinton has signed two laws that provide government guidance and money to carry out school-to-career initiatives. The first law was the 1994 Goals 2000: Educate America Act. This framework prompted the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (STWOA94) to provide guidance for states to satisfy Goal#6 of Goals 2000 Act: Universal literacy for America to compete in a global economy. The STWOA94 stipulates:

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STW: A Historical Perspective

STWOA94 is not the first time policy makers have looked at work as a way to reform education. Work related reforms and initiatives have a long history in American education. In 1848, Horace Mann delivered his Twelfth Annual Report which is considered the document that inspired the creation of the Common School in America. He speaks to the purposes of schooling in America and one of his suggestions is to educate the student for the workforce, "The greatest of all arts in political economy is, to change a consumer into a producer; and next greatest is to increase the producer's producing power." And if work is to bring wealth, he adds, "For the creation of wealth, then - for the existence of a wealthy people and a wealthy nation, - intelligence is the grand condition." Mann recognized that if we are to create a healthy society we need good workers who are intelligent. Booker T Washington continues this idea in his speech to the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, later known as The Atlanta Compromise when he advocates education of the "Negro race" through "industrial education." Certainly John Dewey's "learning by doing" philosophy supports this school-to-career notion. In fact at the end of the Nineteenth Century and into the next century, the factory model school evolves and was very successful in preparing students as workers in the booming Industrial Age. The problem was that academics were sacrificed for the creation of a labor force. It was the Progressive educators who turn from the workplace as an end in educational purpose. Edward Divine, a leader of charity reform, proposed a provocative notion which some may say foreshadows STW: Following this, of course, came the Great Depression which was devastating to school and work. With FDR came the alphabet agencies of the New Deal, CCC, NYA, and WPA which competed head to head with traditional education. In one sense we had two educatoinal systems, one state run the other federally run. The National Youth Administration was closest to providing work with instruction. However, in 1941, the Educational Policies Commission (EPC) issued a report on the conflict between the New Deal agencies and the public educatinal system. It basically suggested that the government should get out of education and leave that to the public schools. However, before any real dialogue on this could really ensue, America was fully engaged in WWII, which immediately disbanded all of the New Deal alphabet agencies as all government efforts were redirected to the war. In public schools courses like "Business English" and "Shp Math" are emerging to satisfy the needs of the people. In hindsight, much of the model of STW can be seen in this conflict between the New Dealers and NEA officials. Hopefully STW is the best of these two combatants. Following WWII we see the GI Bill and vocational schools emerge as educational initiatives. In the 1990's, we finally seem to have a true partnership of government, business, education, and the family joined together for a common goal: School-to-Career which marries the idea of school-based learning with work-based learning. One without the other is hollow, which has been proven many times over the past one-hundred and fifty years. As we prepare the nation for the Digital Age, all the players are collaborating to make this education reform successful. We have the legislation, financial support from governament and business, appropriate pedagogy from education, and families are involved. Just as there were critics of training students for work in the past there are critics today. Phyllis Schlafly published a report in 1995 which warns against the STW initiative. Her warning suggests that this is a plot by business leaders to create a "human resources development system" which provides "certificates of mastery rather than a diploma." She believes a letter written to the then newly elected President Clinton by members of the business community which provides a "master plan to 'remold' the public schools into a seamless web from school to work." She is warning against businesses private agendas, as many did about the factory model earlier in this century and against government's assiting in this plot.

So perhaps we should take a look at how the federal and state governments are providing leadership to schools to assist in implementing the School-to-Career programs and make our own decision on this matter. In addition, we shall hear how families react and give you an opportunity to join a listserv to speak to others about STW and finally to offer a small collection of STW resources available on the Internet and a search mechanism to allow you to search the Internet for even more sites on STW. School-to-Career is a national effort which is all inclusive.

In New York City, there are many STW programs which will be added here as I await participant's reports which should begin appearing in Sept 97, when schools resume. An important element to success comes from the City teacher's contract which provides a wonderful preamble, to give them a charge to incorporate innovative programs such as STW.

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This government law provides the framework for states to implement the STW initiative. The government, executive, legislature, and judical, has stepped in before on matters of education and enacted laws or handed down court decisions which effect schooling. Perhaps as far back as Ferguson in 1896 which supports "separate but equal", the government has been constantly enacting laws which influence education. This law was used to segregate schools, until Brown v Board of Education in 1954, and revisited in 1955 which simply reverses Plessy v Ferguson by saying "separate is inherently unequal." Again the government steped in to influence the educational policies of the land with the STW law which is best described by the School-to-Career National Office which administers and advises on this act, under the joint direction of the US Departments of Labor and Education. Essentially, the challenge is that we prepare "a new kind of worker.. in this new economy which means that our educational system has to change, too." Schools must "offer all students more challenging, relevant, and meaningingful work-based experiences in their communities." STW experiences will be just the elixar the educational system will need to respond to this new government mandate. The program suggests that school-based learning and work-based learning be combined to provide the student with a more balanced education. The STW system coordinates students, educators, and employers in a beneficial program for society in a program of "Learning and Earning." The government provides step-by-step help on the building of a STW system. The assistance given is on writing grants to support local STW initiatives and in seeking waivers. Comprehensive connecting activities provide successful methods of incorporating STW initiatives with specific ideas and proven linking strategies for communities to adopt as their own. Work-Based Learning WBL, suggests a Deweyian idea "Learning by Doing" as a cornerstone to the theory and practice of this element of STW programs. It further suggests that the workplace can be a place where learning happens, not just in schools. School-Based Learning SBL is the second half which fosters high-quality academics and career preparation. By restructuring education in a STW environment, students will be exposed to a better way to learn. Within this restructuring, students will make better connections to the workplace and thereby make better job related choices in the future. STW will introduce them to business so their future choices can be made more intelligently. In a special section, students provide their own testimonials to the STW programs in their communities and how they were benefitted by the STW movement. Finally, the National Site concludes by dispelling Myths about STW. These myths include discussion about another expensive program, inclusion, its necessity for high school students, lowering standards, students won't participate, and community uninterested. The site provides a comprehensive Fact Sheet which serves as a guide in constructing a STW program in your community. The entire site is a warehouse of resources, state initiatives, STW grants, research & evaluation, and lots more valuable information. Not only has the government mandated via a law, but it has also provided guidance and support in assisting its successful implementation. STW is leading by example as the government demonstrates how communities can implement their own STW programs.

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Initiatives by States have been many and varied in application. For example New Hampshire's STW Plan is an excellent resource with information on history of STW and a wonderful explanation of SCANS. The New Hampshire site is a model for any state, district, or school to follow as it plans to implement STW. One salient point I particularly enjoyed while reviewing this site was the fact that "School as presently structured is not for everyone! And then it provides the data that supports the notion of adding relevancy to the classroom. This dichotomy is crucial to understand as STW sets out to resolve many educational issues heretofore still unresolved. This site is very important and provides valuable insight and information to the STW practitioner.

Another worthy example of a well thought out STW initiative is the Ohio School-To-Career System which emphasizes creating partnerships. This very well organized and information packed site, provides brochures for educators, businesses, and parents as others plan their own STW programs. Connecting activities that lead to active partnerships among schools, career centers, higher ed, and the local business community is the theme of this nicely designed site.

Outlined below are some of Ohio's Guiding Principles:
An important element in the Ohio plan is the inclusion of all students K-12. Including elemenatry students in the STW program is crucial for later years success. By introducing business awareness concepts to elementary school students, the idea is planted, businesses have been visited and the concept of STW is instilled early so success is nearly guaranteed. That is a brilliant inclusion element.

In New Jersey the NJDOE STW General Info provides an FAQ which speaks to the inclusion of another student population: Special Education. They raise some good questions and then give great answers.

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Madison, Wisconson's West High School was honored by the National Advisory Panel of the STW Outreach Project as an fine example of the success of the STW law.

The Cochise County School to Work System is a great Guide to Work Based Learning. It begins with a quick view of the foundation for school- to-career paradigm and then provides a detailed recipe for a successful STW program.

They begin by defining STW as systems that consist of partnerships: business,, educators, training groups, community org, citizens, parents, and students. It is a system: a way of thinking, being, and doing. No right way to implement. Trickle down from federal to state to local level.
It explains that Work-Based Learning (WBL) allows for students to make more informed decision about work choice. Job shadowing, internships, work experience, mentoring, and apprenticeship are activities that help students obtain and maintain jobs. Employers benefit because they have an opportunity of shaping the future learners rather than depending upon schools in preparing students. Students benefit because they are in a real-world environment. Schools benefit because their students gain self-esteem and find relevancy from in-school learning in the business world environment. The community of partnerships benefits society.
Initially assess what the students need and what the community can offer. In assessing include parents, business, and schools. They then advise to set a plan and to implement it.
Mentoring is a key component in successful STW projects. The professional and the student share a common interest. Schools should train mentors and they work with the students in a consistent manner throughout the year. It is suggested when setting up a mentoring program, schools follow these guidelines:
The information about mentoring is particularly crucial and important.

Job shadowing is a great early exercise for younger students as they prepare for later year STW programs. Job shadowing provides the student with a maximum amount of information with a minimum amount of time and money. Job shadowing setup procedures are similar to setting up mentoring programs.
Another innovative twist on STW is the School-based enterprises (SBE) which are small businesses developed and set up by students. Setting up an SBE is like setting up a business.
Evaluation is suggested as students should generate and portfolio, either paper or electronic. Electronic portfolios may not always be accessible by employers, soit is recommended a hard copy also be available. Portfolios assess the student on many levels and provides an employer with a better picture of a future employee.
WBL assessment and evaluation is necessary to assure continuation and improvement. All stakeholders should be involved. This feedback is crucial in student improvement. Job related assessment forms will prepare the student for the rigors and expectations of work later in life. Ongoing review is essential to maintain high level of success. All participants in the SBL project should be tapped for evaluation and aware of outcomes. All projects should end with an exit interview.

The Cochise County Schools have provided some innovative additions to the STW initiative. Mentoring, SBEs, job shadowing for younger students, and portfolio approach assessment ideas.

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Inclusion of the family has helped make STW effective. A national study by National Center for Research in Vocational Education (NCRVE) titled "Family Character Nurtures Work Readiness," in the July 10, 1996, Education Daily, about the effects of family character on students' School-to-Career transitions reports that 1,266 high school seniors and 879 adult students enrolled at two-year colleges affected students' readiness for work. Study reported positive effects of family activities which fostered good work related skills included: intrinsic motivation (need or desire that arises from within the individual and causes action toward a goal) and extrinsic motivation (need or desire that arises from promise and/or expectation of a reward), self-efficacy (belief or expectation about one's own ability to perform a given task successfully), and critical thinking (the ability to deal reasonably with questions about what to believe). Students from families in which the members are well-organized, speak their mind, manage conflict positively, and make decisions through careful discussion and democratic negotiation, seemed to be better prepared for the work place.

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The Internet is a wonderful resource for disseminating STW information as we have seen. It is also a wonderful place for people to share ideas, ask questions, get answers from practitioners, and otherwise hob-nob with like-minded people on the subject of STW. A listserv is an Internet public forum utilizing email. Members of the list receive email from other members who wish to communicate with each other on a single matter.

Disseminating information about a program is the domain of the "fifth estate" and the STW movement has its voice printed monthly in School To Work News. In this print and electronic monthly, articles about STW success stories, grant opportunities, products and services for STW community, special resources, networking tips, and much more. The articles are written by practitioners of STW programs. This is a good publication to have as a resource and way of keeping abreast of the happenings in the STW world.

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WWW Sites

  • Resumes
  • A School-to-Work Resource Guide: Focusing on Diversity A comprehensive guide with current information, journals, and more.
  • Career Choices and Tech Prep/School to Work is a curriculum guide provided by a business consulting firm to help educators navigate these new uncharted waters of STW.
  • Education and Urban Society provides a positive comprehensive study of STW from a Berkeley professor and a researcher from RAND.
  • Educational Partnerships in Rocky View School Division, Alberta Ca. Educational partnerships are an importnat strategy for increasing the authenticity of school for our future citizens.

    If you are still interested in more information try any of the search engines in your Internet browser. I used Alta-Vista ( to find my information. I have provided a short cut for you, below, to get you started. You may of course use any other search engine you wish.

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