1Mr. Kershner is Director of Evaluation and Mr. Blair is an EVALUATION OF THE RESEARCH FOR BETTER SCHOOLS CAREER EDUCATION PROGRAM

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1 EVALUATION OF THE RESEARCH FOR BETTER SCHOOLS CAREER EDUCATION PROGRAM BY KEITH M. KERSHNER AND MARK W. BLAIR 1 INTRODUCTION Research for Better Schools, Inc. (RBS) has been responsible for developing, operating, and testing a prototype Experience-Based Career Education program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The prototype has been under development for four years and is in its third year of operations with secondary school students. The RBS Career Education program is one of four Experience-Based Career Education projects currently sponsored by the National Institute of Education. The other projects are located in Charleston, West Virginia, Oakland, California, and Tigard, Oregon. Many differences exist in the operational form of these projects but all spring from a common ground which asserts that for many students public school education does not include sufficient cognitive or affective preparation for adult vocational life. That common ground also posits that direct experience in vocational environments can function as a major curriculum component of a structured educational program. Inherent in this conception is an important distinction between using vocational environments to teach job skills through apprentice-like activities and using them to teach career skills through an instructional program. Experience-Based Career Education emphasizes the latter. The primary goal is providing students with the information, experience and decision-making skills for effective career selection. Commercial, industrial and service agency settings are used as resource sites to achieve this goal. During the entirety of each student s program, resource site activities are integrated with the rest of the curriculum. The school environment and vocational environment are thus integral 1Mr. Kershner is Director of Evaluation and Mr. Blair is an Evaluation Specialist for the Research for Better Schools, Inc., Career Education Program. 28

2 component parts of a comprehensive secondary educational program. It is reasoned that the direct exposure to actual work environments and community resources can be more effective in career development than the media approaches available in the classroom. Further, it is posited that motivation for academic skills acquisition can be increased by real-world experience demonstrating the need for such skills. Finally, it is hypothesized that the various disciplines of academic learning can be blended through a career development program which demonstrates multi-disciplinary approaches to problem solving rather than the discretediscipline approach prevalent in traditional schooling. THE RESEARCH FOR BETTER SCHOOLS PROGRAM The RBS Career Education Program consists of three principal instructional components: Career Exploration and Specialization, Career Guidance, and Basic Skills. For Career Exploration students have available a series of approximately 20 clusters of resource sites ranging through Animal Resources, Construction, Finance, Social Service, and Transportation. Approximately 80 related companies or sites have used their combined resources to plan and conduct cluster activities. Examples of companies and agencies participating in the Philadelphia program are: Lankenau Hospital, Bell of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, ARCO, Contenental Bank, U.S. Civil Service Commission, Acme Markets and American Airlines. Each cluster program is developed jointly by representatives of the participating resource sites and RBS; the programs are conducted by employees of the participating companies and agencies. For each 12 week academic quarter students elect one of the available clusters for their Career Exploration experience. They are involved in the cluster sites for one full day each week. These first-hand resource site programs are designed to allow students to learn about the economic community, to test their own vocational interests, and to obtain informatioan for their career planning. Activities within the cluster programs are varied and may range from listening to a presentation about the company involved to traveling with a road crew. After students have made a tentative career choice, they may elect to participate in a Career Specialization. These are programs designed for individual students to investigate a single job or resource site in depth. The student defines objectives for each specialization, 29

3 and activities are constructed to pursue those objectives. Career Specializations may last from a few weeks to many months. Together with Career explorations, they constitute the students direct experience in vocational environments. Career Guidance is the second major instructional component in the RBS Career Education Program. This component is viewed as crucial in helping students to understand themselves, to assimilate their experiences in the program and to understand career choice within the context of their own values. In order to accomplish this, two activities are provided. Each student participates in small group guidance sessions which meet weekly for an hour and a half. In these sessions an eclectic curriculum which draws upon students resource site experience is employed to promote self exploration, values clarification, life skills, motivation to learn, career planning and integration of program activities. Students also have individual counseling sessions at least once per month, and, since their counselors also perform the resource site liaison, substantial interaction with counseling personnel is available. The third principal instructional component is Basic Skills. This has been operationalized as an Academic Resource Center which focuses on the development of skills in communication and mathematics. The Individualized Learning for Adults approach is employed using a wide variety of materials and resources to construct learning programs for each student. Students are scheduled into the center for six hours per week. After their strengths and weaknesses have been diagnosed, they begin to work through an individually prescribed program at their own rate with trained teachers available to help as needs arise and to monitor progress. Activities in the Academic Resource Center are integrated with other program elements where appropriate and possible. These three instructional components constitute the essence of the RBS Career Education Program. They are characteristically individualized and responsive to student needs. The program has been designed to maximize student development and choice within an operational structure which can serve a large number of students at reasonable costs. The RBS program has served students in Philadelphia for three school years. It has expanded from an enrollment of 100 the first year to 250 students during the current term. During this period of time the methods of conducting the program, selecting students and providing auxiliary courses have changed. This evolution has not been documented in 30

4 the present paper. Such omission has been incurred in the attempt to clearly present the fundamentals of the program. THE EVALUATION DESIGN The evaluation of the RBS Career Education program has been a developmental effort which reflects the status of the project itself. During the first year of operation, the evaluation activities were predominantly formative in nature. Data were collected on the conduct of the program, how participants perceived it, and the progress of students on various measures without reference to comparison student groups. to designing appropriate instrumentation were initiated. During the second year, non-equivalent (lacking the power of random assignment) control groups were established to increase the interpretability of student outcomes. studied with enhanced precision. Attempts Formative issues identified during the first year were Instrument development was accorded substantial resources and resulted in several measures which could be applied to career education projects generically. During the current third year of operations a true experimental design with randomly assigned student groups was achieved. An external summative evaluation has also been instituted to complement the heretofore exclusively internal evaluation. The present paper is concerned only with the second year evaluation as that effort represents the most substantial research on the RBS Career Education Program which has been completed to date. Student Groups During the academic year 152 tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade students participated in the RBS program. These students constituted two experimental groups: the El group of 76 twelfth grade students who had been drawn city-wide during and were returning for their second year in the program, and the E2 group of 76 tenth and eleventh grade students who were drawn from a single high school to participate for their first year in the program. The holdover group, El, had no comparison students. The other experimental group, E2, had for comparison purposes a group, C, of 81 students randomly selected from the total student body of their sending school. An additional comparison group was selected but had to be excluded from analyses due to excessive divergence on entering characteristics. The design thus included one experimental group with no analogous comparison students and a second experimental 31

5 group with a non-equivalent control group. The experimental groups participated in the career education program described above, while the control group participated in the public school program offered by- their sending school. Instruments in the evaluation. Both standardized and project-developed instruments were utilized The following instruments were administered to experimental and control students in a pretest-posttest package. The first two are available commercially, while the latter two have been prepared by RBS. 1. The Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) to measure traditionally conceived cognitive skills in reading and mathematics, 2. The Career Maturity Inventory (CMI) to measure vocational attitude, career knowledge and career planning 3. The Assessment of Student Attitudes Survey (ASA) to measure attitudes toward learning environments, 4. The Student Demographic Data Questionnaire (SDQ) to measure background variables. In addition to the above, the following sources of information were used to generate data on the effectiveness of the program: 1. The Student Opinion Survey (SOS) to measure student attitudes concerning the program. 2. The Parent Opinion Survey (POS) to measure the attitudes of parents of participating students toward the program. 3. The program s documentation systems to verify elements of project conduct and provide data on implementation. The pretest-posttest instruments were administered by the evaluation staff as close to the beginning and end of the school year as was possible for each group. The other instruments were applied as appropriate during the course of the year. Analysis Design The design was organized around two sets of hypotheses. first set was formal propositions to be tested using the results from the pretest-posttest. They were: 1. Students will gain significantly (p<.10) in basic skills over the course of the program year. This tests growth of the El and E2 groups on the CTBS. 2. Students will gain significantly more (p<.10) in basic skills than comparable students in a traditional school. This tests growth of the E2 vs. C group on the CTBS. The 32

6 3. Students will gain significantly (p<.10) in career maturity over the course of the program year. This tests growth of the El and E2 groups on the CMI. 4. Students will gain significantly more (p<.10) in career maturity than comparable students in a traditional school. 5. Students will evidence a significantly more (p<.10) positive attitude toward school than students in a traditional school. This tests attitude variables of the E2 vs. C group on the ASA. Hypothesis testing of growth within groups was accomplished using correlated t-tests on pretest and posttest scores (Guilford, 1965). analyses involved the El and E2 groups only. Hypothesis testing of These relative growth between groups utilized analyses of covariance on posttest scores with the pretest levels as covariates (Finn, 1972). involved the E2 group and its non-equivalent control, the C group. These analyses overall design was quasi-experimental with non-equivalent control groups. The second set of hypotheses was less formal propositions which concerned only the experimental groups. The These were analyzed using the secondary set of measures which consisted of opinion surveys and project documentation. The additional propositions were as follows: 1. Participating students will evidence a positive attitude and commitment regarding the program. was used. For this the SOS 2. Parents will evidence a positive attitude and commitment Results from the POS were regarding the program. employed here. 3. School districts will demonstrate interest in incorporating the model for broader use in public education. The results from a poll of potential adopters were used to investigate the proposition. The second set of hypotheses were thus oriented toward more generalized issues. No criteria for absolute success or failure could be prespecified; results were intended to indicate relative efficacy. RESULTS To determine the nature of student progress in basic skills, correlated t-tests were performed on the CTBS scale scores (Table 1). Virtually all gains were found to be significant supporting the hypothesized basic skills development. 33

7 TABLE 1 CTBS EXPERIMENTAL GROUP GAINS IN SCALE SCORE * p <.10 when t > 1.31 with df > 30 In order to test whether experimental group gains exceeded comparison group gains, analyses of covariance were performed with the posttest scores as the criterion and the pretest (Table 2). scores as the covariate 34

8 TABLE 2 ANALYSES OF COVARIANCE ON COMPARATIVE CTBS GAINS IN SCALE SCORES These results indicate that only minimal support can be given to the hypothesis that the experimental students were superior to controls in basic skills performance. The experimental means were always higher than control means, but only in the case of one subtest was the difference statistically significant. 35

9 Experimental group gains on the Career Maturity Inventory were on career-related variables (Table 3). analyzed to determine progress TABLE 3 CMI EXPERIMENTAL GROUP GAINS IN RAW SCORES *p<.10whent>1.31 with df, > 30 The hypothesis of progress in career maturity as measured by the CMI was clearly supported by the E2 group results and repudiated by the El group findings with equal consistency. The results were thus equivocal overall and differential by group. In order to test the relative gains of experimental and comparison groups on the CMI, analyses of covariance were performed on the posttest scores with the pretest as the covariate (Table 4). In each case the experimental group was superior to the control group and the difference was significant. These results thus support the comparative effectiveness of the program on career maturity as measured by the CMI. Comparative attitudes toward school and aspects of the learning environment represented the last area of formal hypothesis testing. Analyses of covariance on the ASA posttest scores with the pretest as the covariate were performed (Table 5). - 36

10 TABLE 4 ANALYSES OF COVARIANCE ON COMPARATIVE CMI GAINS IN RAW SCORES In each of the five analyses performed, the experimental group was superior to the comparison students. differences were significant. In four of these cases the These results strongly support the hypothesized effect on student attitude toward school. The testing of secondary hypotheses involved less formal and sophisticated procedures. It was posited that experimental students would evidence a favorable opinion of the program. The SOS was administered at mid-year with results as presented in Table 6. From these data it is apparent that participating students had a very positive attitude toward the program. response means were in the 4 range. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being high, most Students were particularly favorably disposed toward the career education program in comparison with their regular school. It was also asserted that the parents of experimental students would demonstrate a positive opinion of the program. In order to determine this, the POS was administered, at mid-year (Table 7). These results indicate extremely high support of the program on the part of parents. Most response means approached the positive extreme of 5. 37

11 TABLE 5 ANALYSES OF COVARIANCE ON COMPARATIVE ASA GAINS IN RAW SCORES The final secondary hypothesis was concerned with school district interest in Experience-Based Career Education. The issue here is whether the RBS model has a future (as a contributor to public education) outside of the demonstration project environment. in order to obtain an initial indication of this, descriptive materials were sent to each of the public school districts in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. To date over 100 positive responses have been received. This suggests that the desire for career education within the public school domain is substantial. 38

12 TABLE 6 STUDENT OPINION SURVEY 39

13 TABLE 7 PARENT OPINION SURVEY SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Research for Better Schools, Inc. has been responsible, under the auspices of NIE, for developing and operating a prototype Experience- Based Career Education program in Philadelphia. This program has been designed as an approach to problems of youth related to successful career pursuit. These problems include an asserted gap between tradi- 40

14 tional school experience and preparation for adult vocational life, perceived deficiencies in the career awareness of youth, and inadequate information and strategies for making rational, self-determined career choices. The program has been operationalized for secondary-age students with three instructional components. The first, Career Exploration and Specialization, offers students a wide variety of curricular activities conducted at the work sites of participating industries, businesses, agencies and unions. These direct, &dquo;hands-on&dquo; experiences are provided by over 100 employers in the Philadelphia area. Students spend at least one full day per week in these activities. The second, Career Guidance, consists of structured small group guidance sessions each individualized learning opportunities in communication skills and mathematics. Students are scheduled for basic skills instruction one and one-half hours each day. The RBS Career Education Program thus constitutes a substantial curriculum focusing on student preparation for aware career selection and successful career pursuit. All activities are designed to maximize student choice and individualization of treatment. The program is conducted in close cooperation with the Philadelphia Public Schools, and has expanded in enrollment from 100 the first year to 250 during the current, third, year of operations. The present paper reports evaluation findings from the program s second year. The RBS Career Education Program evaluation has been conducted by an internal evaluation staff. The design has been a developmental one, increasing in precision and sophistication over the tenure of the project. The design for analysis included two experimental groups and one non-equivalent control group. All students were administered a pretest-posttest series of instruments including the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, the Career Maturity Inventory, the Assessment of Student Attitude Scale, and the Student Demographic Data Questionnaire. Hypothesized growth within groups was tested via correlated t-tests, while hypothesized between group differences required analyses of covarience with the posttest score as the criterion and pretest level as the covariate. The.10 level was established for statistical significance. Data on the opinions of participants and potential adopters of the program were also collected. 41

15 _. The evaluation findings may be capsulized as follows: 1. Experimental students (El and E2) gained significantly in basic skills.during the course of their participation in the project. 2. The basic skills gains of experimental students (E2) were higher but not significantly different than those exhibited by their control counterparts (C). 3. First year experimental students (E2) gained significantly in career maturity, while second year students (El) did not. 4. The career maturity gains of experimental were significantly higher than those demonstrated by their control counterparts (C). students (E2) 5. The gains in attitude toward school of experimental students (E2) were significantly higher than those of their control counterparts (C). 6. Experimental students (El and E2) demonstrated a very positive attitude toward the program. 7. The parents of experimental students (El and E2) demonstrated a very positive attitude toward the program. 8. An initial survey indicates that the desire for career education within the public schools is substantial. These results are regarded as demonstrating a high degree of effectiveness for the Career Education Program. Student gains were significant in areas of instructional focus over the course of the year. Program students displayed superiority over the public school group in all areas but basic skills. Both students and parents exhibited very favorable opinions of the program. Preliminary results also indicated interest in career education on the part of the public schools. REFERENCES Finn, J. D. Multivariance: Univariate and Multivariate Analysis of Variance, Covariance, and Regression: A Fortran IV Program, Version V. Ann Arbor, Michigan: National Education Resources, Inc., Guilford, J. P. Fundamental Statistics in psychology and Education, Fourth Edition. New York: McGraw Hill,

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