Creating Tomorrow’s Workforce: An Evaluation of School-to-Work

March 02, 2001

With the 1994 School-to-Work Opportunities Act sunsetting this year and the increasing importance of developing a skilled workforce for a tech-based economy, many are asking if the initiatives launched or expanded by the Act have been successful. According to School-to-Work: Making A Difference in Education, a new report from the Institute on Education and the Economy at Columbia University, early results are encouraging, but there are areas for improvement given the opportunity presented by reauthorization. 



To prepare their findings the Institute reviewed the findings and conclusions of more than 130 local, state, regional, and national studies completed on School-to-Work programs. A complete bibliography is included at the end of the document. 



Accomplishments 

According to the report, employer engagement in school-to-work is at record levels. By 1997, “three years after passage of the Act and before all states had received funding, more than one-quarter of all firms employing 20 or more people were members of partnerships. . . Most employers report that students are positive, valued workers.” 



The study also found School-to-Work student participants are less likely to drop out of school than non-participants, school attendance and grades improve, and many broaden their career options by going on for post-secondary education. 



Challenges Identified 

The report identifies several areas for possible improvement and further study: 

  • Evidence is lacking on the effects of School-to-Work on standardized test scores. 
  • Longitudinal research is needed to determine whether School-to-Work has a positive effect on college enrollment and completion, and labor market success. Because the Act’s implementation in many states is less than 3 years old, there is insufficient data to support any conclusions in these areas. 
  • Only a small proportion of School-to-Work students participate in all elements of the Act. Increasing student access to all components of the initiative – rigorous applied academics, intensive work-based learning, and comprehensive career development – should improve overall results since each element was found to be successful. 

The complete report can be downloaded from: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/~iee/

New York