Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 8/8.5.2

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College Preparatory Classes Vs. Vocational School.[edit]

Author: Chad Filson

Learning Objectives[edit]

• The reader should be able to name two advantages to taking College Prep. or A.P. courses.

• The reader should be able to name two advantages to attending Vocational school.

• The reader should be able to name two disadvantages to taking College Prep or A.P. courses.

• The reader should be able to name two disadvantages to attending Vocational School.


This article is designed to help the reader form their own opinions on College prep or Vocational schools for students in secondary school preparing to further their education. The definition of College prep as defined by Wikipedia is " A university-preparatory school or college-preparatory school(usually abbreviated to prep. school, or college prep school) is a secondary school usually private designed to prepare students for a college or university education." For all intents and purposes of this article we are going to assume that these are U.S. High Schools and the real target is going to be their curriculum. A vocational school is defined by wikipedia as follows, "a school in which students are taught the skills needed to perform a particular job." We will be exploring the advantages and disadvantages associated with both paths students take after graduation from high school.

Advantages to taking College Prep or A.P. courses.[edit]

The biggest advantage to going the college prep route is to prepare the student for classes when he or she finally arrives at the college of their choice. According to Karen Arenson of the New York Times, without the core curriculum recommmended for college prep, only fourteen percent of students are ready for college work in all four areas {Math, Science, English, Social Studies.} and thirty six percent were not ready for any. This statistic shows the need for any student who is interested in persuing a college education to be enrolled in either A.P. {Advanced Placement} courses or the college prep curriculum. Another big advantage to taking this path is that it saves the individual money in the long run especially if they take A.P. courses that are approved by the University or do dual enrollment. Dual Enrollment "allows the student to enroll in college courses and apply the credits to both high school and college graduation."{Quint pg.32}. Dual enrollment gives the students a broader range of courses to choose from as well {Quint pg.32}. Currently in the United States there are 2,900 colleges that give credit for high scores on A.P. tests and A.P. exams have grown from only eleven in 1950 to thirty-three by 2002{Erekson, Thomas. Shumway, Steven}.

Advantages to Vocational or Technical Schools.[edit]

Not all students want to pursue a four year degree from a college or university. Sometimes these students enroll in a Vocational or Technical school to learn a trade. However as stated by Eileen Knight, John Donahue and Patrick Knight " Tech ed is beneficial for students who are preparing for college as well as those who are not{ACE TECH: The Fourth Year of CTE and Academic 22}. Students who attend a vocational school are looking for specialized training that can be applied to a career when they graduate. Students are able to make workforce connections through internships, job shadowing, and supervised trips{ACE TECH: The Fourth Year of CTE and Academic 22}. These types of connections can be invaluable when students get out of school and are looking for jobs in the workforce. Some other skills that the students learn such as "various ways of assesssing, oral presentations, connections of subjects and understanding the importance of aligning skills they learn with what colleges and employers are requiring"{ACE TECH: The Fourth Year of CTE and Academic 22} help to make the individual well rounded.

Disadvantages to College Prep or A.P. courses.[edit]

Despite all the good that college prep and A.P. courses do there are some unfortunate drawbacks as well. According to the MDRC students taking college prep and A.P. courses may need access to specialized and supplementary materials for courses including but not limited to sophisticated lab equipment. Unfortunately in a lot of school systems this is not a viable option and it costs the district more money. Karen Arenson of the New York times writes " only one fourth of high school students who take a full set of college preparatory courses - four years of english and three years of mathematics, science, and social studies are well prepared for college; according to a study of last years high school graduates released yesterday by ACT, the Iowa testing organization." She later goes on to add that an additional nineteen percent were not prepared for courses at the college level.

Disadvantages to Vocational or Technical School.[edit]

As with the college prep route there are drawbacks to Vocational or Technical school as well. Jack Elliot writes that secondary CTE or Career Technical Education suffers from a negative stereotype among students, parents, teachers, and policy makers that CTE is ONLY for non-college bound students. One of the reasons for this as Elliot points out is generally CTE students do not do as well on high pressure testing due to learning style and other characteristics. Erickson and Shunway seem to be in agreement when they state that "as long as {negative} perceptions exist, college bound students will be less likely to enroll in technology education classes"(Technology Education as College Prep pg.13). Elliot then moves on to state that "tests define school priorities causing more focus on core subjects and cut backs on CTE and fine arts programs {Who is 50}. That being said CTE students may not have the same types of opportunities that college prep students may have.


Hopefully reading this article has helped the reader form an opinion as to whether Vocational School or College Prep is the better road, maybe a mix of the two is the best combining a little real world work experience with high level challenging course work. In the authors opinion it doesn't matter which path the student takes, some are more interested in the mechanical nature of things while others are more interested in the theory, what really matters is continuing their education. As long as they continue to learn and better themselves everyone wins.


1. Pick two courses that would be considered College Prep ?

a. Pre- Algebra

b. Physical Education

c. Algebra 2

d. Spanish 3

2. What percentage of college students who took the full recommended course load were prepared for college ?'.'

a. One-fourth

b. Three-Fourths

c. One-half

d. Two-thirds

3. Which would improve upon keeping students interested in continued education ?

a. Offering a slim selection of courses mainly structured towards college prep students.

b. Pushing student to take college prep course who do not plan to attend college.

c. Allowing students to earn credits toward both high school and college graduation.

d. Not showing students way to access financial aid and other resources that may be valuable to them.

4. What two methods would be a good way to get more interest in technology ?

a. Keeping technology out of the classroom and sticking to more traditional teaching methods and strategies

b. Cutting the budget for fine arts and technology and putting more emphasis on standardized tests.

c. Offering college credits for taking advanced technology courses.

d. Believing the negative stereotype associated with TCE courses.


1. Arenson, Karen [2007]. Study Finds College- Prep Courses in High School Leave Many Students Lagging. New York Times. May 16, 2007

2. Eileen Quinn Knight,;Donahue John; Knight Patrick [20080. Ace Tech: The Fourth Year of CTE and Academic Integration. Techniques {Association for Career and Technical Education] vol. 83 no 8 {November, December 2008]. p. 22-5

3. Elliot Jack [2007]. Who is Smarter, CTE or Other Students ? A five year High Stakes Test Score Comparison Answers The Question. Techniques { Associated for Career and Technical Education} v. 82 no.6 Sept 2007 p 50-2

4. Erekson, Thomas, Shumway, Steven [2002]. Technology Education as College Prep.. Technology Teacher; March 2002 Vol. 61 Issue 6 p. 10,5

5. Quint Janet; Thompson Saskia Levy; Bald Margaret; Bernstein Julia; Sztejnberg Laura [2008]. Relationships, Rigor, and Readiness Strategies for Improving High Schools. From a Conference of midsize school districts. Convened by MDRC with The Council or Great City Schools. The National High School Alliance.


1. C,D

2. A

3. C

4. C

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