The Pennsylvania Code, chapter four, section 4.3, defines vocational-technical education as “Programs under public supervision and control which provide an organized process of learning experiences designed to develop integrated academic and occupational skills, knowledge, attitudes, work habits and leadership ability for entry into and advancement within various levels of employment in occupational areas of agriculture, business, marketing and distribution, health, home economics and trade and industry and for participation in postsecondary education and training” (1 Pa. Code § 4.3). In order to be a successful vocational school, the school must fulfill this definition and also abide by the state standards of curriculum. Though a vocational school is geared toward trades and careers, core classes and state standards cannot be ignored.
Requirements of a 9-12 School (High School)
Vocational schools aim to prepare students to enter a trade or vocational career. The school must therefore work to develop the abilities of the students needed to succeed in their chosen path. Section 4.23 of the Pennsylvania code lays out requirements for high school education, which includes vocational schooling. According to the code, the school must provide and offer to students the following classes in agreement with the state academic standards:
•Environment / ecology
•Science / technology
•Health / family science
The following must be made available to students:
•World languages (minimum of 2)
*In compliance with the Pennsylvania Code, world language programs must prepare students to be proficient in meeting the World Language Standards issued by the Department and available on its web site. Every school district shall provide planned instruction in at least two languages in addition to English. A minimum of one of the languages must be a modern language, and at least one of which shall be offered in a minimum 4-year sequence (1 Pa. Code § 4.23).
Curriculum in a Vocational School
The Pennsylvania Code states that a vocational education program must consist of planned academic and vocational-technical education courses. These courses must work with one another in such a way so that the skills and knowledge learned are reflective of each other.
It is recommended that the curriculum of a vocational school include the teaching of industry standards and regulations.
Courses that are deemed “vocational-technical education” must include:
•content based upon occupational analysis
•clearly stated performance objectives
•assessment of student competencies based upon performance standards
*Safety education incorporates accident prevention, occupational health concerns, and environmental concerns. This safety education is included in the regular instruction of the
vocational school and its practices.
A vocational school must make accommodations for students with special needs through special programs, depending and varying on the need or disability of the student, and also in compliance with the state disability inclusion laws.
A Comprehensive Curriculum for Students
Though vocational schools are designed to ready students for careers and vocations via hand-on work and experience, basic core subjects cannot be ignored. According to A. E. Howard of Forest Hill Comprehensive School, vocational school curriculums should be generally guided with the ability to “work outwards from English and mathematics, it being clearly understood that the object is to provide the fundamental general education together with a degree of proficiency in the vocational subjects” (Howard, 2008).
Requirements for Graduation (curriculum inclusive)
Section 4.24 of the Pennsylvania Code states that requirements for graduation from a high school (including charter school, vocational school, etc.) must be somehow integrated into the school’s curriculum. A school cannot make a requirement and then not provide opportunities for the student to complete it (1 Pa. Code § 4.24).
The state requires that students show proficiency in writing, reading, and mathematics on State assessments. The school must provide via its courses and instruction the means to reach proficiency. Thus, a school’s curriculum must be structured to meet the required scores on State assessments, as well as to meet the needs of students themselves.
Framing the Curriculum
Though a curriculum meets specific requirements, it also incorporates larger ideas and concepts. Pennsylvania is looking to structure its curriculums by identifying standards for students. The Pennsylvania Department of Education defines its curriculum framework as including:
Utilizing this framework allows for a more clearly organized and defined curriculum for schools. This layout helps schools develop a curriculum better designed to meet State and student needs in each grade level (Standards Aligned System).