Tech prep is most traditionally and frequently defined as a four-year program (during grades 11-14) that leads to an associate degree or two-year certificate in a specific career field. This curriculum includes a common core of required mathematics, science communications, and technologies that is integrated, applied, and sequenced.
There is a strong consensus that American schools have generally ignored the average student: the middle 50% of teenagers who complete high school, but do not attend four-year colleges, universities, or graduate schools. These students are no longer prepared to enter today’s changed workforce, which demands workers who can think, problem solve, work in teams, and apply knowledge. The tech prep curriculum was designed as the instructional strategy for preparing such students to work in a labor market that requires more technical skills.
Some critics question whether a tech prep curriculum significantly differs from vocational education. And others want high schools to reorganize themselves, offering students only a college prep or a tech prep course of study.
Let’s examine how a tech prep curriculum affects the following elements of education:
Curriculum–High schools and community colleges coordinate the tech prep curriculum together, eliminating duplication and ensuring skills are acquired in the best possible sequence. Critics of tech prep programs maintain that neither the curriculum in the high school nor the community college has changed to reflect the issues and problems of today’s workplace. Predominantly, the focus is on teaching math, science, and communication for both application and contextual purposes.
Instruction–Tech prep instruction is still classroom-oriented. Most of the occupational skills are taught in the laboratory setting. There is a strong push to try integrating what happens in the academic classroom with activities in the occupational labs.
Assessment:–In the occupational labs, we see a greater use of assessing work samples and projects than in traditional classes. However, there is still a heavy reliance on traditional tests and grades. The drawback of this is that although tech prep prepares students for the job market, it may not prepare them for the lack of traditional assessment in the workplace–in other words, employers don’t rate employee performances with letter grades and test scores.
The Neglected Majority and Tech Prep/Associate Degree, Parnell, Dale.