The School-to-Work (STW) partnership model is based on the idea that there are significant economies of scale in the provision of STW programming and therefore groups of districts working together on relatively large projects will achieve more. than individual districts working for themselves. on smaller projects. As soon as a state has established a statewide association and has started receiving STW funding, local associations are formed. Local associations can then start applying for grants. Each state establishes its own guidelines for the local association structure and the grant application process. To be eligible for funding, local partnerships typically have to demonstrate that school districts are committed to the project, that at least some local businesses are active participants in the venture, and that planned activities and projects will be of sufficient scale to benefit students in multiple schools and / or districts. Once a local association has met these criteria and received funding, the state appoints a grant facilitator who works with the association to implement the STW system it has proposed.
As noted above, the foundation of the local partnership structure is based on the idea that STW programming can be delivered more effectively if at least some activities are delivered at an organizational level higher than that of the individual school or district. This increase in efficiency can occur for a number of reasons.
First, a local association can serve as a communication link connecting participating schools and districts. In this capacity, the association can accelerate the flow of information about successful practices from one school or district to another. You can also collect and disseminate STW information from external sources more efficiently than can be done at the individual school level.
Second, a local association can organize STW activities that need to attract students from various schools or districts to achieve the minimum scale necessary for efficient operation. For example, a specialized training program at a local company may appeal to just one or two students at a single school. By making such a program available to students in multiple schools, a partnership can create enough demand to ensure its success.
Third, a local association can simplify the task of establishing STW links between individual schools and local businesses. Too often, schools do not have the resources or contacts to effectively reach out to local businesses. Local associations, in part because business representatives are on their board, generally have these resources or contacts. Additionally, when serving students, individual companies generally prefer to work with a central organization rather than a multitude of individual schools.
Fourth, a local association includes representation from a wide range of industries and therefore has more knowledge about regional industry groups appropriate for curriculum development than individual schools. Participating companies can then engage with schools to write standards and identify industry skills.
The end result is that the local partnership structure greatly expands the information and opportunities available to individual schools seeking to establish STW programs. Schools have access to more industry options and workplace experiences for their students and more information on effective practices elsewhere than if they were working entirely on their own. All of these programs perform one or more of the partnership functions mentioned above for participating schools.
The types of programs described in this section have been undertaken by a variety of local associations with considerable success. In all cases, coordination at the local association level has provided teachers, districts and schools with opportunities that they would not have had working on their own.
Establishment of educator opportunities in the workplace
The Workplace Educator programs provide teachers with workplace experience. Its primary goal is to expose teachers to business problems and increase their awareness of the skills necessary for successful employment. Some programs place teachers in the workplace for periods of up to a full summer. In other programs, the experience is shorter, sometimes just one day. The result is that a greater understanding of business operations, career opportunities, and the daily demands of the workplace will enable teachers to better prepare their students for the real world of work. The most effective programs require teachers to develop lesson plans based on their experiences in the workplace. Participating teachers also often prepare staff development programs for their colleagues based on their experiences in the workplace. In all cases, local associations institute Workplace Educator opportunities for teachers.
Make business connections
Many associations have established ongoing links between educators and local businesses to encourage easy communication. The programs have business representatives who serve on boards that visit schools and classrooms regularly. The associations also sponsor events that foster ongoing dialogue between teachers and employers. The local association contacts businesses and facilitates communication with schools.
Develop professional awareness programs
The STW requires participating schools to provide professional awareness activities in the K-12 curriculum. To provide professional awareness more efficiently, many local associations are developing professional awareness materials and / or organizing professional awareness activities and then making them available to all districts and schools in the association. Many associations have developed collections of professional awareness materials available at central locations within the region of the association or on a website developed by the association. Associations also arrange for local business representatives to visit the school and deliver presentations describing alternative career paths in classrooms, during assemblies, and on professional days.
Provide work experiences to students
Partnerships attract students from many school districts and place them in a variety of programs, from full paid internships to job shadowing experiences. Because the local association is involved, these opportunities are available to many more students. Some associations have made the provision of student work experiences and student participation a requirement of the STW program.
Operation of student camps
Intensive career exploration is possible for students through summer camps. These camps rely heavily on the participation of local businesses. They give students the opportunity to experience an in-depth look at one or more careers. Because they are organized at the association level, students also have the opportunity to meet students from neighboring school districts and companies have the opportunity to reach a greater number of students.
Improving school district communication
Many associations have assembled collections of STW best practice materials drawn from the experiences of schools and districts both inside and outside the association. These posts typically include not only individual project descriptions, but also a variety of supporting materials, such as forms, letters, links to the curriculum, and assessments from both students and teachers.
Organization of workshops / seminars
In addition to providing information in hard copy, associations often conduct best practice seminars and workshops for a broad spectrum of STW participants, such as teachers, school administrators, parents, and employers. These programs serve many purposes for local partnerships: the ability to share materials and programs developed between school districts; the opportunity to keep the lines of communication open between educators and local businesses; and an opportunity to promote the STW initiative.
Develop regional career-related skills
Race group development is an integral part of the STW model. Local associations can provide the necessary information and resources to schools to develop realistic professional groups. The participation of companies in the area in this process is vital to its success. The associations have assembled teams made up of educators and entrepreneurs to outline skills that focus on specific occupations or prominent industries in their region.
Develop the curriculum
New curriculum materials need to be created to enhance the school-based learning component of STW programs. These materials are often based on general competencies and specific skills. Local associations have often taken the initiative to help prepare these materials. In some cases, associations simply provide financial support to educators to write appropriate manuals and lesson plans. In other cases, associations have been involved in the development of a project-based curriculum.
Local STW partnerships are just beginning to have a significant impact on the STW programs of individual schools and districts. The associations have instituted many valuable programs for teachers and students, established connections with local businesses, and initiated reviews of the STW curriculum. The longevity of these programs beyond STW funding remains to be seen; however, if educators, businesses, students, and parents see a benefit to the economic development of their communities, continued local support for these initiatives is possible.