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Vocational and academic education in U.S. high schools became separate entities around the turn of the century. Academic education has historically conisted of courses including English, history, mathematics, science, foreign languate, and fine arts. Such an education prepares studens for further education at the college or university level. Such an education may be supplemented with courses which familiarize students with the uses of technology. Occupational skills trining hs not been a component of academic education. Traditionally, vocational education has focued on specific skill training for entry-level jobs by offering students training in occupationally specific areas. While a large number of high school students to take vocational courses suchy as typing andkeyboarding, academic students typically take a different sequence of courses than do vocational students (Bodilly, Ramsey, Stasz, and Eden, 1993).
A resurgence of interest in vocational aspects of American education has been generated as our nation struggles to meet the emerging needs of a changing economy. Sparked by the publication of "A Nation at Risk" in 1993, it has become commonly held belief that many students were not acquiring the academic and technical skills required for many areas of the workforce. Many reforms have been offered to address these concerns, including curricular and pedagogical reforms, collaboration reforms, teacher collaboration reforms, as well as school transition reforms. In 1993, the Policy and Planning Council of the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC) sought to clarify the issues in a literature review of the work force preparation literature (McMillan, 1993). That review conducted at the beginning of interest in this policy area, described the nature of the concern about how students are prepared for the work force, described the skills needed by workbound students, and extracted early lessons from schools leading the integration of academic and vocational education reforms.
The purpose of this paper is to identify and clarify important issues and themes related to the issue, extract design components, and help formulate research questions which can be pursued through the collection of additional information. The questions which guided the search include:
Why is it important to integrate academic and vocational education:
What does the integration of academic and vocational education mean?
What are the essential components of integrated programs?
What forms has integration taken? What examples of integrated vocational and academic strategies exist in practice?
What evidence is there that these forms work? How effective has the integration of academic and vocational educational been?
What policy questions must be addressed to integrate academic and vocational education?
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VCU MERC Publications