Although the development and implementation of tech prep education programs have been in process since the initiation of the Carl D. Perkins Act Amendments of 1990, misconceptions about tech prep education still exist. As defined in provisions authorizing Perkins funds for tech prep, a tech prep education program is a combined secondary and postsecondary program that-
leads to an associate degree or two-year certificate;
provides technical preparation in at least one field of engineering technology; applied science, mechanical, industrial, or practical art or trade; or agriculture, health or business;
builds student competence in mathematics, science, and communications (including applied academics) through a sequential course of study; and
leads to placement in employment.
Tech prep programs are designed to accomplish this agenda through strategies described as "integration," "articulation," and "work-based learning." Although these strategies are reflective of the various tech prep program components, they are diversely interpreted according to the background, education, and experience of those involved in the tech prep initiative. This publication examines some of the myths that have evolved about tech prep and presents the realities of tech prep implementation.
Myth: Tech Prep Is an Integration of
Academic and Vocational Education
Although tech prep is based on the premise that academic and vocational skills cannot be learned in isolation from each other, integration of the two disciplines extends beyond the merging of existing academic and vocational education curriculum. It requires the introduction of new courses, sequenced in an entire program of core curriculum that leads students to develop advanced skills for technical occupations and such higher-order thinking skills as creative thinking, reasoning, and communication, as well as math and science.
Although the integration of academic and vocational education offers one strategy for developing the academic and technical competence of students, it does not constitute tech prep. Tech prep requires not only new courses and a sequenced core curriculum, but courses that take into account the learning styles of the majority of students, incorporating concepts like that of contextual learning. According to Hull (1993), contextual learning "occurs only when students process new information or knowledge in such a way that it makes sense to them in their frame of reference (their own inner world of memory, experience, and response)" (p. 41). Thus, the applied academics approach to learning, which involves the teaching of solid academic content by means of hands-on and vocational applications, follows the contextual learning concept in that it provides for learning in the context of life experiences-building on what the students already know and applying learning in the context of how the knowledge/information can be used in the context of exploration,...