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

Student Evaluation

Information to determine how student performance was evaluated in vocational courses was obtained from two items. The first asked teachers to describe what percentage of a student's grade was determined by nine potential measures. The second item listed 18 student competencies and asked teachers to indicate on a 5-point scale the extent to which they contributed to a student's grade in the class. Data are presented for percentage of teachers indicating a particular competency contributed to the grade to a moderate or great extent.

Components of Grades

Student performance in vocational courses was most commonly evaluated by teacher-developed tests (84 percent) and student classwork (76 percent; Table 11). In more than half of these classes, teachers also considered performance in school labs or shops (56 percent), attendance and/or class participation (55 percent), and student presentations or projects (53 percent). Student homework also accounted for part of a student's grade in 42 percent of vocational courses. Less frequently cited were standardized tests (27 percent), student portfolios of best work (18 percent), job performance at work site (12 percent), and other measures (11 percent).

Generally, the pattern of use for various types of assessments in vocational courses was similar for comprehensive and vocational schools. However, performance in school labs or shops and attendance and/or class participation were more common measures of performance in vocational schools (78 percent and 72 percent, respectively) than in comprehensive schools (50 percent for each).

Student classwork was more frequently cited as an assessment measure for vocational courses in comprehensive schools (80 percent) than in vocational schools, where only 60 percent indicated that student classwork contributed to the students" grades.

Teachers of vocational courses were only half as likely (42 percent) as teachers of academic courses (84 percent) to evaluate students on homework and slightly less likely to judge their performance based upon teacher-developed tests (84 percent compared with 93 percent in academic courses). On the other hand, teachers in vocational courses were more likely to assign grades based in part on performance in school labs or shops (56 percent) and attendance and/or class participation (55 percent) than academic teachers (20 percent for school labor shop performance and 43 percent for attendance and/or class participation).

In addition to indicating whether or not specified assessments were used to determine students" grades, teachers reported what percentage of students" grades were based on each assessment.

Overall, teacher-developed tests account for the largest percentage of students" grades in both vocational and academic courses. Academic teachers, however, indicated that a larger percentage of the grades in their courses were determined by teacher-developed tests than did vocational teachers (39 percent versus 24 percent; Figure 9, Table 12). Other differences were found between academic and vocational courses. Performance in school labs or shops accounted for 17 percent of a student's grade in vocational courses as compared to 3 percent of the grade in academic courses. In academic classes 14 percent of the grade was determined by student homework compared to 6 percent in vocational classes.

Like academic teachers, vocational teachers in comprehensive high schools indicated that teacher-developed tests were the single largest contributor to the grade, accounting for 26 percent of it. In this regard, vocational teachers in comprehensive schools more closely resembled academic teachers than vocational teachers in vocational schools, who reported that teacher-developed tests accounted for only 18 percent of the grade and that the largest contributor to the grade was a student"s performance in school labs or shops. In vocational schools, school labor shop performance accounted for twice as much of the vocational course grade than in vocational courses in comprehensive high schools (28 versus 14 percent). Conversely, student classwork in vocational courses in comprehensive schools was a larger determinant of course grades than those in vocational schools (21 percent compared with 12 percent). Attendance and/or class participation was twice as important in vocational courses in vocational schools than in vocational courses in comprehensive schools (14 percent compared with 7 percent).

Vocational and academic teachers were similar in the smaller emphasis placed upon standardized tests, which accounted for between 6 and 7 percent of grades, student portfolios of best work (2 to 4 percent), and job performance at work site (less than 1 percent in academic courses but only 3 percent in vocational courses).

Overall, homework was not one of the more important determinants of student success in vocational classes. For example, although 42 percent of teachers in vocational classes indicated that student homework is a contributing factor to the determination of grade, it accounted for only 6 percent of the first grade in these classes in comprehensive schools and 4 percent in vocational schools. Academic subject teachers were twice as likely to use homework as a deciding factor in grade (84 percent), and it accounted for 14 percent of the grades they gave.

Competencies Contributing to Students' Grades

The degree to which various competencies contribute to a student"s grade to a moderate or great extent were examined in the study. Teachers in academic courses reported the leading determinants of students" grades were basic reading skills (92 percent), completing work on time (87 percent), creative thinking and problem solving (85 percent), and self-management skills (83 percent; Table 13). These same skills led the vocational course lists with between 82 and 87 percent of teachers indicating these were of moderate or great importance in the assignment of grades. For vocational courses, however, additional factors contributing to grades in vocational schools differed somewhat from those for academic schools. Even more pronounced differences were found between vocational courses in comprehensive schools and those in vocational schools.

General employability skills (84 percent), job-specific skills (80 percent), and the ability to apply academic concepts to occupational tasks (81 percent) were significantly more likely to contribute to a vocational student's grade than to the grade of a student in an academic course. These competencies were most important in vocational schools, where from 89 to 96 percent of vocational teachers indicated that such job-related skills contributed to a moderate or great extent to students" grades; this compares with 75 percent to 81 percent of vocational teachers in comprehensive schools and only 19 percent to 36 percent of academic teachers who based their grades on these same factors.

Vocational students were more likely to be judged in terms of their teamwork skills than those in academic classes (62 percent versus 52 percent). Those attending vocational schools were most likely to be evaluated in terms of teamwork skills (78 percent) compared with those in comprehensive high schools (57 percent). Other competencies that were of greater consideration to vocational teachers than academic teachers included developing an understanding of organizational and technical systems (65 percent versus 41 percent), ability to use technology to solve problems (62 percent versus 36 percent), and basic mathematics skills or concepts (68 percent versus 37 percent).

On the other hand, teachers in academic courses used the following criteria more frequently than those in vocational courses to evaluate student performance: writing skills (76 percent versus 59 percent), basic reading skills (92 percent versus 86 percent), and research and reference skills (44 percent versus 36 percent).

Overall, vocational teachers in vocational schools were more likely than their comprehensive school counterparts to consider a host of competencies. In addition to the greater emphasis placed upon occupational skills (job-specific skills, general employability skills, and application of academic concepts to occupational tasks), teamwork skills were more important in vocational courses in vocational schools (78 percent) than in comprehensive schools (57 percent). Research or reference skills were almost equally important in vocational school vocational courses as they were in academic courses (46 and 44 percent, respectively). They were less important in comprehensive school vocational courses (33 percent). Advanced mathematics skills or concepts was another category that vocational teachers in vocational schools were more likely to take into consideration in determining grades than their comprehensive school counterparts (29 percent versus 19 percent). Additionally, oral communications (82 percent versus 72 percent), basic science knowledge (39 percent versus 31 percent), and advanced science knowledge (21 percent versus 11 percent) were greater determinants of grades in vocational high schools than in comprehensive school vocational courses.