|Abstract or Summary
- This study examined the relationships between business, education, and the economy, and specifically addressed the significant impact that business has had on education and educational policy. A large amount of research exists on the history of school reform and the development of educational policy, but none of the research examined for this study included the voices of students and workers. Business has had a powerful influence over the decisions that educators make about what is taught and how schools work. However, the focus of schools continues to be on academics, not on workforce preparation.
This mixed methods study combines survey and interview data to examine the perceptions and experiences of high school students as well as workers who have not gone to college. Portland Public Schools in Portland, OR, provided the data from Senior Surveys for 2005, 2006, and 2007 for this analysis. Participants were high school seniors who were about to graduate from high school. The survey collected data on their post-high school plans and the perceptions of their school experiences. Six adults with positive, productive workplace experiences, but who have not attended college were also interviewed. These adults shared their experiences as students and as entry-level workers, and shared their opinions about the level of support high schools provide for students entering the workforce.
The survey data showed that high school seniors either felt prepared academically, or they felt prepared with soft skills, but not both. The interview data, assessed using grounded theory, revealed that these noncollege-bound high school graduates have learned to access the soft skills that help them be successful at work, but those skills were unreachable in high school. Both survey and interview findings identify the need to integrate academic skills with traits that lead to increased productivity. The survey data support existing research that indicates the majority of high school graduates do not enter college directly after high school. The findings of this study emphasize the importance of worker and student voices in educational policy and practice, and the importance of valuing students who plan to go to work after high school.