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Critical Issue:
Providing Professional Development Activities for School-to-Work Initiatives

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ISSUE: Successful school-to-work (STW) initiatives require academic and vocational staff who can integrate vocational and academic education, provide work-based learning opportunities in partnership with local businesses, and prepare all students for work or further education. These teachers, in turn, need professional development to gain a working understanding of the conceptual and practical applications of STW efforts.

OVERVIEW: As STW initiatives move from the planning stages to full implementation across the nation, professional development will play an essential role. School leaders can use professional development programs to communicate a shared vision of STW reforms and provide access to the skills needed to support those reforms. All staff - from vocational and academic teachers to counselors and administrators - should have opportunities for professional development in the following areas:

GOALS: Vocational and academic teachers, counselors, and administrators will have systematic and consistent opportunities to develop a working understanding of STW principles and become familiar with the best implementation strategies through appropriate preservice and inservice preparation. At the same time, staff will have opportunities to develop internal leadership to foster a sense of professional community and a school culture that is receptive to continuous improvement.


IMPLEMENTATION PITFALLS: Vocational and academic teachers, counselors, administrators, and policymakers must understand the role and impact of STW programs in the school operation as a whole. To achieve such an understanding and to address the learning needs of all students as envisioned in the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 , it is essential that all staff have access to active and systematic professional development opportunities. School leaders will need to provide alternative solutions to the lack of time to participate in professional development activities.

It is especially important that school leaders involve both vocational and academic teachers in STW reforms to overcome preconceived - and often differing - notions of responsibilities and status.

Furthermore, because STW programs encompass several issues and attempt to integrate vocational and academic education, some components may be stressed more than others according to the interest of the proponent groups - each pulling STW in a different direction. As a result, professional development to support STW reform could continue to be a mix of inconsistent policies and disconnected efforts.

Therefore, key leaders - both teachers and administrators - must have a clear vision for STW reforms in order to create a school culture in which all staff understand and share a common vision and to determine appropriate professional development opportunities.

DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: A major concern about STW programs is whether they will make a lasting and meaningful impact on the way schools operate. Many question whether such programs can make a significant difference in education. To some practitioners, STW reforms are just another fad that will soon be replaced by other reforms.


For an excellent resource on school-to-work initiatives in general, see The Texas Toolbox: School-to-Work Initiatives. The following areas of this site provide information specific to professional development:

Examples of Exemplary STW Programs:
Fort Worth, Texas
Goose Creek "Authentic Connection," Baytown, Texas
Beaverton, Oregon
Data Results from Site Visits
Common Current School-to-Work Practices: Teacher Training
Definitions: Professional Development for School-to-Work Providers
Implementing Best Practices: Professional Development


Center on Education and Work
University of Wisconsin-Madison
964 Educational Sciences Building
1025 West Johnson Street
Madison, WI 53706

National Center for Research in Vocational Education
Materials Distribution Service
Western Illinois University
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455-1390
Contact: Diana Burnell
(800) 637-7652, FAX: (309) 298-2869

Virginia Tech Office
National Center for Research in Vocational Education (NCRVE)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
332 Lane Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0254

Dr. L. Allen Phelps
Office of Quality Improvement
University of Wisconsin-Madison
195 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison WI 53706-1380
(608) 263-2714
FAX: (608) 263-2081

Dr. Susan Faulkner
NCRVE Coordinator of Professional Development and Dissemination Activities
University of California at Berkeley
1995 University off Califfornia at Berkeley
1995 University Avenue, Suite 375
Berkeley, CA 94704

Dr. Curt R. Finch
NCRVE site director in charge of Professional Development Program
Virginia Tech Office
National Center for Research in Vocational Education
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
332 Lane Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0254


This Critical Issue summary was researched and written by Victor M. Hernandez, assistant researcher at the Center on Education and Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Date posted: 1995
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