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Public Secondary School Teacher Survey on Vocational Education
NCES: 94409
February 1994

Characteristics and Composition of Vocational Education Classes

This study is based upon a representative sample of vocational teachers, rather than a representative sample of vocational classes. Most teachers teach more than one class, and many of these teachers may teach more than one vocational subject. The teacher responses to this survey, Part II Class Information, were based on the first class taught on October 1 in the teacher's primary assignment. Since this survey did not cover all classes taught by the teacher, it is not representative of all vocational classes or students in the United States. We can, however, describe those classes for which teachers reported.


When teachers reported on the first class taught in their primary assignment on October 1, almost a third (30 Percent) of the reported vocational classes were in business and office education (Figure 4)2. The other most frequently reported vocational classes were trade and industrial education (21 percent) and technology education and industrial arts (11 percent). Additional vocational courses included agricultural education (9 percent), consumer and homemaking education (8 percent), occupational home economics (6 percent), marketing and distributive education (5 percent), technical and communications education (5 percent), health occupations (4 percent), and other vocational education (1 percent).

Class Size

On average, the class size in vocational education courses was 21. Academic classes were larger, averaging 24 students (Figure 5).

Student Abilities

In the fall of 1992, most vocational classes were composed either primarily of students of average ability or of students spanning a wide range of abilities. This pattern appeared in both comprehensive and vocational high schools. Teachers in academic courses viewed their students differently. They were about three times as likely as vocational teachers to indicate that their students were of higher than average ability (35 percent compared to 11 percent; Table 4). Academic teachers were only half as likely as vocational teachers, however, to report that their classes were made up of students with a wide range of abilities (16 percent compared with 33 percent). Only 14 percent of all teachers indicated that their classes were composed primarily of lower than average ability students. This was similar for both vocational and academic courses (17 percent and 13 percent, respectively).

Application Toward Graduation Requirements

About one-fourth (26 percent) of all vocational courses count toward academic graduation requirements and 59 percent of vocational courses at vocational high schools count toward academic graduation requirements. Relatively small proportions of vocational courses fulfill graduation requirements in English (5 percent), science (10 percent), or math (11 percent; Table 4). Vocational courses in vocational high schools were more than twice as likely as those in comprehensive schools to fulfill graduation requirements in English (11 versus 4 percent), science (24 versus 6 percent), and math (24 versus 7 percent).

2The distribution of classes is highly correlated with the distribution of primary teaching assignments reported by teachers since the class for which they reported on was the first class taught in their primary teaching assignment the week of October 1, 1992. The distributions of classes and teaching assignments are not identical, however, because some teachers" assignments are evenly split between academic and vocational subjects. These teachers were counted separately for teaching assignment, but the class data they provided are counted as vocational or academic, depending upon the subject of the actual class for which the teacher reported.