Benefits of School-To-Work Program Participation: Perceptions of Students and Comparison of Pre and Post Grades and Attendance
Johnson, Esther R.
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There has been limited evaluation to show the perceptions of student participants in school-to-work programs about the impact of school-to-work program participation as being beneficial to their postsecondary educational and career plans, and no research to determine whether perceptions differ significantly across race and gender. In addition, the minimal research conducted to date did not study student participants' perceptions about the impact of the program on their understanding of the relevance of the academics to the worksite and their overall academic success. Nor did the research address the actual change in grades and school attendance of students in school-to-work programs. Students are a major stakeholder group in the school-to-work initiative, and therefore, consulting with them about their perceptions about the impact of school-to-work program participation is an important aspect in school-to-work evaluation. Students have not been consulted in educational program evaluation and have not had a significant voice in the school-to-work arena (Hollenbeck, 1996). It is important to assess the opinions and perceptions of students who are currently participating in school-to-work programs, because they are the major focus of the school-to-work initiative and information that they provide can be used by program administrators and policymakers in making future decisions about school-to-work programs. Such assessment should seek to determine their perceptions about the impact of the program on their overall academic success and future postsecondary education and career choices. It is also important to assess the impact of the program on students' academic success and school attendance. A questionnaire was developed by the researcher and distributed to site coordinators in three school-to-work sites. Site coordinators worked with school staff to administer the questionnaire instrument. One-hundred twenty-four twelfth grade student participants in school-to-work programs, in these three sites, were asked to participate; 62% responded to the survey. Based on the findings of this study, the following conclusions were made. The findings on students' perceptions that school-to-work program participation improved their overall academic performance, increased their acceptance of responsibility, increased their self-confidence and motivation can be an indicator of the success of the school-to-work program. The positive attitudes of students regarding the school-to-work program as being beneficial to their future education and career plans is important in promoting the concept of "life-long" learning. The use of measures to determine students' perceptions about understanding the relevance of school-to-work, improvement in academic performance, and overall satisfaction with the school-to-work program can be used as measures to evaluate the success of a school-to-work program. School-to-work program participation can be instrumental in influencing students to continue their education beyond high school. School-to-work program participation does not appear to negatively impact any group (gender or race).
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