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Institute on Education and the Economy


IEE Insider — Issue 4, February 2002

Director's Column

The nation has experienced several transitions since the Institute's last newsletter. There is a new administration in Washington, DC, and we have all been watching to see how education and employment policies are affected. One expected occurrence has been the closing of the National School-to-Work Office and the waning of federal funds for the types of educational programs we have long studied here at IEE. In addition, the nation is undergoing a change from a strong economy to a period of weakness and uncertainty, of course made all the worse by the tragic events of September 11th. This decline is already affecting employment opportunities in general and may also have negative consequences in terms of business contributions to educational programs, such as the provision of paid internships for students. As the policy and the economic contexts change, our work at the Institute continues to focus on how best to prepare young people and adults for their transitions: from school to the workplace and increasingly back and forth between the two.

Several of our projects address how these transitions can be improved. Much of what we have studied over the last several years indicates that partnerships between employers and schools can assist in transitions. For instance, we are now completing a four-part study of the National Academy Foundation's career academy model. The industry-sponsored non-profit NAF, which supports and oversees almost 500 academies around the country, is an excellent example of a partnership between business and educators that yields benefits for the employers, teachers, and students involved. Reports detailing the findings of our research will be released soon.

Recent publications also speak to the problem of transition. Our report, School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education, compiles and analyzes the research on school-to-work transition initiatives since the federal School-to-Work legislation was passed in 1994, and finds that these initiatives show a great deal of promise. A new book co-authored by former IEE researchers Annette Bernhardt and Marc A. Scott, entitled Divergent Paths: Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market, examines upward mobility for workers in recent decades, compared with the 1960s and 1970s. This newsletter describes these and other publications, and shares news about IEE. As always, we at IEE very much appreciate your comments and questions as we continue to work with you to strengthen educational and employment opportunities for all young people in this country.

The National Academy Foundation's Career Academy Program: IEE's Evaluation

At the request of the National Academy Foundation (NAF) in late 1999, IEE researchers Terry Orr, Katherine Hughes, and Melinda Mechur Karp began a four-part study of NAF's career academy program. NAF is a national, nonprofit intermediary organization that sustains a network of almost 500 career academies in 39 states. NAF supports academies in three industry areas—Academy of Finance, Academy of Travel and Tourism, and Academy of Information Technology—with industry-focused curricula, professional development for teachers and other staff, and extensive partnerships with employers that include the provision of paid internships for students. The model is intended to provide contextual learning opportunities for high school students in order to raise awareness about career opportunities and encourage the pursuit of higher education and career development goals.

The researchers have been examining the impact of NAF's career academies on graduating seniors, alumni, teachers, and employers. Ten career academy sites were selected—seven of them were Academy of Finance; three, Academy of Travel and Tourism—to reflect the educational and organizational dynamics that are achieved in well-implemented programs. The ten sites were also selected because of their longevity and sustained operations, so the researchers could follow up on alumni who graduated five to ten years ago. Finally, sites were selected for student and geographic diversity. All seniors graduating from the ten programs in Spring 2000 were surveyed, as well as a comparison group of seniors from the same schools; 233 Academy and 215 comparison senior surveys were collected, and 177 alumni from 1990, 1991, and 1995 were also located and surveyed. All academy-affiliated teachers from the ten sites were invited to complete a teacher survey; 34 academy teachers returned surveys as well as 26 comparison teachers. In addition, 192 employers participating in the ten programs were interviewed. Case study research of each program was also completed.

While the large amount of data collected is still being analyzed, preliminary findings suggest that the NAF career academy model is working as intended. Program seniors report being better prepared for college and careers than their non-academy counterparts. Academy seniors and alumni tended to rate the program highly. Most alumni are doing very well; many are the first in their families to complete college, and many have pursued careers in the academy industries. Teachers report that the NAF-sponsored professional development has had positive effects on their teaching and effectiveness. Finally, employers report great satisfaction with their participation in the program. In fact, the strength of NAF's employer involvement comes through not only in the employer survey but also in the student and alumni surveys as the latter groups report enduring ties to NAF employers.

Preliminary findings of the research were presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) meeting in April 2001 in Seattle by Terry Orr and Melinda Karp. In July, results were shared at the annual NAF staff development institute by Terry Orr and Katherine Hughes, and in August a presentation was made to the national NAF Board of Directors. Katherine Hughes and Melinda Karp also presented findings to the New York City Board of Education's Advisory Council for Occupational Education in December. This research is now almost complete. Please watch the IEE web site for further information.

School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education

IEE is proud to announce publication of its report School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education, which compiles and analyzes the most recent research on school-to-work initiatives in the United States. The report concludes that these initiatives show a great deal of promise.

To address concerns about the quality of education and its effect on the economy, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act passed with bi-partisan support and was signed by President Clinton in 1994. The Act provided seed funding to states and local communities to support efforts aimed at improving young people's preparation for postsecondary education and careers. School-to-Work activities were to be built from partnerships between employers and educators, and now include work-based experiences, such as internships and job shadowing, for students as well as teachers. With the federal funding for school-to-work programs set to expire in October 2001, it was important to take stock of the accomplishments to date. The overall story is encouraging: the Act stimulated thousands of thriving school-business partnerships throughout the country, and there is evidence that certain types of school-to-work initiatives are having a positive effect on some educational outcomes while also being warmly embraced by students, teachers, school administrators, and employers.

IEE's report is thus far the most comprehensive compilation of research examining the effects of recent school-to-work efforts and therefore is immediately relevant to educators, policymakers, parents, and employers. Since its publication in early 2001, it has received attention by the Washington Post, Education Week, Techniques, and the School Administrator, among other publications. School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education is available for downloading in PDF format from the IEE website.

Divergent Paths: Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market

The IEE is pleased to announce the release of a new book, Divergent Paths: Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market, written under the auspices of IEE and published by the Russell Sage Foundation. Divergent Paths examines the prospects for upward mobility of workers in a changed economic landscape. Based on a comparison of two generations of white men over the course of their careers, the book documents the divide between the upwardly mobile and the growing numbers of workers caught in the low-wage trap. Divergent Paths examines hidden trends in today's job market that confirm many of the public's fears about job insecurity. Despite the celebrated strong job market of recent years, the authors show that the old labor market of the 1960s and 1970s propelled more workers up the earnings ladder than does today's labor market. Divergent Paths concludes with a discussion of policy strategies, such as regional partnerships linking corporate, union, government, and community resources, which may help repair the career paths that once made upward mobility a realistic ambition for all American workers.

The research was conducted by the book's authors: Annette Bernhardt, Senior Research Associate at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Martina Morris, Blumstein-Jordan Professor of Sociology and Statistics at the University of Washington, Seattle; Mark S. Handcock, Professor of Statistics and the Social Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle; and Marc A. Scott, Assistant Professor of Educational Statistics at the School of Education, New York University. Bernhardt and Scott carried out much of this work while in residence at IEE in collaboration with Thomas R. Bailey, IEE's Director. To order Divergent Paths, call Russell Sage Foundation publications at (800) 524-6401 or visit its website (http://www.russellsage.org).

Manufacturing Advantage: Why High-Performance Work Systems Pay Off

Manufacturing Advantage: Why High-Performance Work Systems Pay Off, published in 2000, examines how high performance work systems (HPWSs) can help firms enhance their competitive advantage by adopting modern manufacturing practices that reduce costs and improve plant performance. The authors, including IEE's Thomas Bailey, look at the effects these high-performance practices have on wages and important non-monetary outcomes for workers. The core of a high-performance work system in manufacturing is that work is organized to permit front-line workers to participate in decisions that alter organizational routines. This work model may be achieved in a number of ways, including using shop-floor production teams or involving employees in problem solving or quality-improvement teams. The book focuses on the effect of HPWSs on workers and firms in three manufacturing industries: steel, apparel, and medical electronic instruments and imaging. The authors found that across these diverse industries similar HPWSs had various beneficial effects on the firms surveyed.

Manufacturing Advantage was co-authored by Eileen Appelbaum, Research Director at the Economic Policy Institute; Thomas Bailey, IEE Director and Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; Peter Berg, Research Associate at the Economic Policy Institute and Assistant Professor in the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University; and Arne L. Kalleberg, the Kenan Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Published by Cornell University Press, it can be ordered from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) website (http://epi.org).

Changes in the Permanent Employment System in Japan

The IEE is pleased to announce the release of a new book, Changes in the Permanent Employment System in Japan between 1982 and 1997, written by Yukari Matsuzuka, IEE Research Associate, and published by Routledge. The Japanese permanent employment system became highly developed during the country's strong and continuous economic growth after World War II. This growth facilitated investments in firm-specific skills and employee salaries that increased sharply along with their tenure, which contributed to long-term attachments between firms and employees. The book hypothesizes that permanent employment in Japan would have declined between 1992 and 1997 with the unraveling of these corporate practices, due largely to the country's economic downturn in the 1990s. Contrary to expectation, however, the author found that employment duration did not decrease, but increased during this period. This lengthening of employment duration is explained by governmental incentives to extend retirement ages, a reduction in hours worked, and the weakening effect of tenure on earnings. On the basis of these findings, the author concludes that the longer employment duration does not mean that permanent employment has been sustained or enhanced. Rather, permanent employment is weakened by the flattening tenure-earnings profiles, since they would reduce incentives for workers to stay with the same company, discouraging investments in firm-specific skills and inducing higher turnovers. This study suggests that Japanese permanent employment may become less meaningful in the future.

This book is based on Yukari Matsuzuka's doctoral dissertation, sponsored by Thomas R. Bailey, Professor of Economics and Education. Yukari Matsuzuka received her Ph.D. in 2000 from the Department of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. To order this book, call Routledge at (800) 634-7064 or visit its website (http://www.routledge.com).

Work-Based Learning and Education Reform: IEE'S Continuing Committment

A manuscript based on over five years of IEE research on work-based learning and education reform is currently under review for publication. The book explores the potential for using work-based learning as part of a broad education reform strategy. Research at IEE on school-to-work began by examining employer participation in work-based learning programs. With a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts in 1995, site visits were conducted at thirteen school-to-work programs around the country to try to determine why employers participate, or decline to participate, in school-to-work programs. With additional support from the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, IEE staff also conducted telephone surveys of employers participating in such programs, and employers not participating. Researchers then turned to the study of pedagogy for work-based learning, exploring what and how students learn at school-to-work internship placements. In 1998, with funding from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and building on the research already completed, researchers examined whether work-based learning could contribute to the learning and retention of academic subjects.

In bringing together IEE's work of the last several years, the book has five broad goals. The first is to clarify questions surrounding work-based learning and to encourage practitioners, policy makers, and researchers to identify their views and objectives. There has been some controversy about work-based learning, based on a lack of clarity about its purposes. For example, if work-based learning can improve academic skills, then which academic skills are involved? Can work-based learning replace academic classes? If so, how many and which ones? Or should work-based learning be primarily about career exploration, or about general youth development? Advocates have not been clear about exactly what they expect to achieve with work-based learning, exactly what it is for, thus leaving skeptics and others confused.

Second, the book will make the arguments for work-based learning much more systematic and concrete. When advocates have identified objectives, they have generally been vague about why they believed that the strategy would achieve them. For example, what type of program design might cover mastery of academic skills as opposed to career exploration? What specific experiences can improve academic skills? Unless those mechanisms are specified, it will be difficult to understand whether work-based learning is effective and to figure out what characteristics lead to effectiveness.

Third, the various claims about the benefits of work-based learning are given systematic theoretical and empirical scrutiny. The book reviews the theoretical and conceptual discussions of the topic, and also examines work-based learning programs themselves and the experiences of dozens of young people participating in these programs.

Fourth, the book strives to develop a better understanding of on-the-job pedagogy. This effort will be built on IEE's understanding of the mechanisms through which learning takes place on the job. Guidelines that can help program administrators find or design high quality work-based learning experiences are provided.

Fifth, attention is focused on the costs of work-based learning. Incorporating the workplace into the core educational system incurs costs to the schools and to the participating employers. Schools may have to rethink their budget allocations and employers may be deterred from becoming involved. Please check the IEE website for an announcement of publication of the book, for which the working title is Work-Based Learning and Education Reform.

Teaming Up for School Improvement in New York City

IEE Senior Research Associate Katherine Hughes has completed a study of vocational high school reform in New York City. Its purpose was to document the effectiveness of Civic Strategies, a Boston-based non-profit firm, in conducting a school improvement initiative in all of the City's vocational schools. In 1998, in response to the need to implement new state-mandated higher academic standards for all students, the New York City Board of Education contracted with Civic Strategies for two years to undertake this initiative. Since then, Civic Strategies has been implementing its three-step model of school improvement: school needs assessment and staff buy-in, development of school-specific improvement plans, and delivery of tailored professional development activities.

IEE estimates that the Civic Strategies approach has resulted in positive changes in two-thirds of the schools where the model was fully implemented. A number of patterns seem to be emerging from the mosaic of activities across the system and the schools over two years:

  • In the school system as a whole, the initiative has energized people to focus on the dire necessity of improving vocational schools.
  • Collaboration across the system among central officials, superintendents, principals, and union officials has increased by way of venues such as task forces developed and facilitated by Civic Strategies.
  • Many school-based managers (principals and assistant principals) have received extensive coaching on management approaches and have adopted more effective day-to-day and long-term managerial practices. One result is that communication and collaboration among school-based managers and between these managers and the instructional staff have improved.
  • A number of school-based managers are initiating significant changes in their curricula in order to bring their offerings in line with the expressed needs of business and industry, as well as with the priorities articulated by the New York State Department of Education and the City Board of Education.
  • More academic and vocational teachers are working with one another and some have already made some programs and coursework more rigorous through interdisciplinary project-based learning strategies. These activities are still underway.

The research and report, Teaming Up for School Improvement in New York City: Civic Strategies, the Board of Education, Vocational High Schools, and Unions, were completed with Dr. Larry Bailis, Senior Research Associate at the Heller School's Center for Human Resources of Brandeis University. The report, IEE Working Paper No. 16, is available from IEE.

Community College Research Center: A Continuing Mission

Created in 1996 with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) continues to carry out and promote research on major issues affecting the development, growth and changing roles of community colleges in the United States. CCRC strives to strengthen the research capacity both within the colleges and the broader community, attract new scholars to the field, promote discussion and debate about crucial and often controversial issues, and disseminate existing research. Visit the CCRC website for more information.

Announcements

The IEE is pleased to announce that Thomas Bailey has been newly appointed as The George and Abby O'Neill Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. This three-year professorship was made possible by the generosity of George and Abby O'Neill, very close friends and long time supporters of Teachers College.

 


 

Institute on Education and the Economy, Teachers College, Columbia University
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