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Hearing of House Subcommittee on Education Reform: H.R. 366, the Vocational and Technical Education for the Future Act

Location: Washington, DC


February 15, 2005


Mr. Andrews. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank the witnesses for their participation today, and Ms. Simons in particular, you did a great job. I want to associate myself with Ms. Woolsey's comments. I know how hard it is to sit and testify like this. You were flawless and did a great job for your school. If I were the admissions people at the University of Maryland College Park, I think I would get that acceptance letter in the mail pretty quickly.

The panel is, I think in many ways, preaching to the choir here. We believe in the Perkins program. We believe in you and in your students and in what you have achieved. But the reality is that we have a burden of proof to meet, or else there is not going to be a Perkins program this time next year.

The President has proposed that the program be eliminated and folded into a sort of block grant, part of which would go to this expansion of the No Child Left Behind Act to high schools. The administration's budget document, I am going to read from it, says under the administration's program assessment rating tool, called APART, vocational education was rated ineffective because it has produced little or no evidence of improved outcomes for students despite decades of increasing Federal investment.

It is our burden to dispute that assertion. I do not believe it, but I would like any of you on the panel to point us toward a body of evidence that would help us refute it. It is a little bit of a straw man they have set up here, because how can you measure what would have happened without Perkins when we had Perkins for the last several decades.

But what--if you had to boil down your response to that argument in a sentence or two, I would like to hear each one of you tell me what that sentence would be. Maybe, Mr. Moore, you could start.

Mr. Moore. I would be glad to. Ask me that last little bit one more time if you will, the sentence.

Mr. Andrews. If you had to boil down your response to the passage that I read that said that vocational education is ineffective. In effect, it doesn't make any difference whether we spend money on it or not, that the results are not altered. What's the answer?

Mr. Moore. Well, clearly the results at my school, and I have the advantage of being over a school and being very focused on the results of that school, which I do focus on like a laser, I can tell you that our results are outstanding, and those results are very directly related to the support that we have received as a community through the Perkins funding.

Mr. Andrews. Specifically, what was happening to the student population before you were here in 1999?

Mr. Moore. Right.

Mr. Andrews. I think when you got started. What has happened since then?

Mr. Moore. Great question. SAT scores have gone up. The dropout rate has fallen 42 percent in our community--county. We have blended academics and by offering college instruction at the high school level we have raised the academic bar. And we find, among the test scores, which are traditional measures, and again in my testimony, I referenced graduation test scores that are higher in some cases, significantly higher.

Mr. Andrews. What about job placement? Those are all very meaningful. What about job placement?

Mr. Moore. That is the measure I like the best, job placement. We are finding that students in our work based learning program are being offered jobs by the people for whom they have worked while they have been in high school.

Mr. Andrews. Ms. Simon, or Simons. I am sorry.

Ms. Simons. It is Simons.

Mr. Andrews. Ms. Simons, I think your presence here is pretty good argument against those assertions, but do you have anything you want to add to that?

Ms. Simons. Well, I just want to say that I completely disagree with President Bush's statement. I don't see any validity behind it, and I think if you look around you see the percentage of test scores have increased, and as a student I feel more focused.

Mr. Andrews. This is a great country, isn't it? Keep going, I think you are doing great.

Ms. Simons. And as a student I feel more focused than compared to other students who don't participate in a career technical program.

Mr. Andrews. Great.

Ms. Simons. I know what I want to do and I know how to do it. So.

Mr. Andrews. Pretty good answer.

Dr. Ainsworth.

Dr. Ainsworth. Well, first of all, we don't agree with the numbers the President presented, the numbers that were collected before the 1998 act even went into effect. I think you have to take fresh numbers, you have to get recent numbers. You have to measure the effect that has occurred since then. And since 1998, you know, somebody has described changing education like moving a graveyard. It is very difficult to move entire systems.

Mr. Andrews. Very unfortunate.

Dr. Ainsworth. Yes, you know--can I take that, retract that?

Mr. Andrews. Yes, let us do a better one than that.

Dr. Ainsworth. But it is very, very difficult. Change occurs over a longer period of time with sustained efforts. We have had that sustained effort, and we are starting to see that benefit. So why, why move out of that? Why not continue that?

Mr. Andrews. My time is exhausted, but I would just ask our other two witnesses briefly if they could cite us to a source of evidence or supplement the record in writing with data that would refute that claim.

Dr. Kister.

Dr. Kister. Yes, I would cite the High School Work Assessment, which is about 54,000. It is a robust data base that shows where there are quality career technical programs there are increased academics on the part of the students. Also, in Arizona, the career technical students actually outperformed the regular students on the Ames test, on their State test.

Mr. Andrews. What about job placement?

Dr. Kister. I think the States collect data on job placement. It is clearly greater. Also John Bishop's study from Cornell University shows a 20 percent return for investment for labor market.

Mr. Andrews. You picked my alma mater, you picked the right school. Dr. Atkinson.

Dr. Atkinson. The one-liner would be that we found in Delaware when we tease out dropout data on career and technical students, they drop out at half the rate of the normal population. You have to be in school to learn.

Mr. Andrews. I am going to conclude, but I--you know, one of the other things the President said in the State of the Union address quite admirably, he will ask the First Lady to lead an anti-gang initiative. I would argue Perkins is an anti-gang initiative. If you are reducing drop-out rates, you are certainly reducing gang membership and gang violence.

Thank you very much to the panel.


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