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New Report from the IEE Shows School-to-Work Initiatives Impact Student Performance

There is a new consensus of research that indicates that School-to-Work (STW) activities such as job shadowing, which involve business/education partnerships, do make a difference for students-this according to a report just published by the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE) at TC. School-to-Work activities include work-based experiences such as student internships and job shadowing. Also included are teacher "externships" into businesses, where educators get a chance to see what happens in a company and incorporate their work-related insights into their lesson plans.

The report, entitled "School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education," analyzed the wealth of studies that focus on the evaluation of School-to-Work (STW) initiatives. The report is the most comprehensive compilation of research examining the effects of recent STW efforts and serves as a status report on indicators of the success of STW initiatives.

The report is based on a March 2000 conversation which gathered 50 of the nation's educational practitioners and policy makers, representing local, state, and federal perspectives to celebrate the past and plan for the future of the School-to-Work/School-to-Career movement. Funded by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and organized by the National Academy Foundation with Keep the Change, Inc., the conversation was held to examine the progress of the School-to-Work Opportunities ACT (STWOA), set to sunset in October 2001 and to monitor its impact in U.S. communities.

The National School-to-Work Office, which is supported by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, funded the research and the report.

The report found that many studies show how participation in STW supports academic achievement in a variety of ways, including reducing the dropout rate and increasing college enrollment. Career Academies in particular, which link corporate involvement to secondary school education and foster small learning communities, are cited as an effective model. The report found that STW contributes significantly to students' career preparation, through exploration activities and work-based learning experiences that teach students skills that are useful in careers. These activities help students think about and plan for the future, including college. The findings also indicate that participation in STW helps students mature and develop psychologically as they gain increased knowledge of the importance of school.

"We are very encouraged by all the positive results we found in our comprehensive look at the research. Business/education partnerships really show promise in giving students opportunities that many wouldn't otherwise have, and in motivating them to learn," said Katherine Hughes, Senior Research Associate for IEE.

In addition to the STW benefits to students, STW research indicates that teachers and employers are also enthusiastic about STW programs. The report also concluded that even the most rigorous studies of STW initiatives have turned up almost no negative results of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA).

Although critics of the STW approach to education feared it would weaken academic achievement and divert students to low-skilled jobs, there is no evidence to support this position among STW studies.

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act was enacted in 1994 to act as a venture capital fund for education. The goal of the Act has been to identify successful community-based initiatives at the local level and provide the resources necessary for their continued growth and expansion.

"School-to-Work: Making a Difference in Education" is based on a compilation of a comprehensive bibliography of all studies conducted to evaluate STW initiatives in the United States. The report was written by Katherine L. Hughes, Thomas R. Bailey, and Melinda J. Mechur.

Hughes, Senior Research Associate, received her doctorate from Columbia University's Sociology Department in 1995, and is currently conducting an evaluation with Professor Terry Orr of the National Academy Foundation's (NAF) Career Academy Program. Bailey is the Director of both the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE) and the Community College Research Center, and Professor of Economics and Education. Mechur is a Research Assistant at IEE, where she is currently working on the NAF Evaluation Study. She is also a candidate for her MA in Sociology and Education.

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