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Vocational Agriculture Education Vocational agriculture has a long history in American education. By those who were enrolled as stu- dents, vocational agriculture remains one of the most widely praised secondary school programs in the country. Most programs consist of three parts: classroom and laboratory instruction, supervised occupa- tional experiences (SOEs), and membership in the FFA. Vocational ag- riculture can be a demanding and rewarding program. Students and teachers spend considerable time in and outside school following the curriculum and working on projects. When federally supported vocational agriculture education was cre- ated in 1917, about one-third of the U.S. population lived on farms. Farm businesses dominated rural life and sustained rural communi- ties. Today, the U.S. farm population is about 2.2 percent of the overall population. Technological evolution over the last half century has transformed the nature and vastly broadened the range of agricultural occupations and professional careers. U.S. industries that serve agri- culture by producing, processing, marketing, and preparing food and fiber products for consumers account for about $700 billion in economic activity each year, which is about 16.5 percent of the gross national product (U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, 1986; U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census, 19881. The economic crisis in farming has affected vocational agriculture education programs, particularly in regions where bad weather and weak commodity markets have been problems since 1980. Students who once might have followed their parents into farming, or worked in a 25

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26 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE farm-related service industry or business often now have little interest in agriculture. Some parents with farm backgrounds encourage their children to pursue other careers. The media have exposed students from families not associated with farming to the often highly visible prob- lems in farming. Considering evidence cited in Chapter 2 that most Americans perceive agriculture and farming as synonymous, it is not surprising that many students are uninterested or skeptical when evaluating opportunities that might follow from enrollment in a voca- tional agriculture program. FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Change within agriculture is an ongoing process that will affect ag- ricultural businesses and institutions. They must adapt to continue serving agriculture. The institution of vocational agriculture educa- tion is no exception. PROGRAM ENROLLMENT AND AVAILABILITY Enrollment Enrollments in vocational agriculture programs peaked in the late 1970s and are now declining about 1 to 3 percent annually. Figures 3-1 and 3-2 show the decline of agriculture enrollments compared with other vocational education courses. Based on the analysis of data and testimony presented by several experts, the committee finds: Less than 5 percent of the high school population enrolls in a 3- or 4-year vocational agriculture education program. The number of viable programs nationwide is declining; consequently, the number of students served by such programs is declining. Little is known about vocational agriculture enrollment trends. The USDE no longer collects data on students taking vocational agricul ture courses. Enrollment data that are available are often difficult to interpret, aggregate, or compare over time because of different definitions, sam- pling techniques, and reporting requirements. Nonetheless, the avail- able evidence is adequate to reach some general judgments about the

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 27 availability and enrollments in vocational agriculture programs among high school students. The committee believes that the best estimates of enrollment trends in vocational agriculture programs can be extrapolated from statistics on FFA membership. This organization has compiled records for nearly six decades, using a relatively consistent methodology. The National FFA Center compiles the data that state supervisors of agriculture have collected (National FFA Organization, 19861. Drawing on state surveys of vocational agriculture teachers, the FFA estimates that about 75 percent of vocational agriculture students are FFA members. This per- centage appears to have remained roughly constant over the last few decades. Enrollment in vocational agriculture programs for full-time second- ary school students grew quickly in the 1930s, rising from about 123,685 in 1930 to 329,398 in 1940. In the next decade, enrollment expanded to approximately 376,897. The 1950s brought much slower growth; enrollments stood at 463,960 in 1960. In the 1960s, enrollment continued to increase, although somewhat erratically (Roberts, 19711. Another steady growth phase began in 1971, which approximately par- alleled the expansion in agricultural production and profits during the 1970s. Peak enrollments probably occurred in 1976 to 1977, when about 697,500 students were enrolled in vocational agriculture programs (National FFA Organization, 19861. This was about 5 percent of the 14.5 million students in high school. In 1986, vocational agriculture enrollment had declined to about 525,071. FFA membership followed a similar pattern, declining from 507,735 members in 1976-1977 to 430,184 members in 1985-1986. Of these 430,184 students, 113,317 were from the FFA's Central Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin); 77,836 were from the Eastern Region (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsyl- vania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia); 106,338 were from the Southern Region (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, and Tennessee); and 132,693 were from the Western Region (Alaska, Arizona, Califor- nia, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Ore- gon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming). The high school popu- lation also declined over this period, falling to about 12.4 million students in 1986 (USDE, 19871. Vocational agriculture program enroll- ment currently is about 4.5 percent of the high school population (Na- tional FFA Organization, 19861.

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28 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE Availability Vocational agriculture is most commonly found in general or compre- hensive high schools; in 1985, 77.7 percent of vocational agriculture high school teaching positions were in such schools (Camp, 19871. Other programs are based in vocational schools, including 2-year postsecond- ary technical centers. In more than half the schools, one teacher is responsible for vocational agriculture programs (Camp, 19871. About 35 percent of the programs are in schools located in 13 southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missis- sippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Some people believe the South has a disproportionately high number of vocational agriculture programs. The reasons for this are agriculture is economically important in the South, social and cul- tural conditions create expectations for the schools to teach vocations, and many Southerners practice small-farm agriculture as a way of life (Lee, 19861. The committee found few convincing studies and data on why some school districts offer vocational agriculture, while others do not, or why vocational programs do well in some schools, but are weak in others nearby. One study of Kansas school districts without vocational agri Total Office occupations Consumer and homemaking Trade and industrial Other Distribution Health Agriculture Occupational home economics Technical -20 \~\\\\Y 0 20 40 60 Percent change 1975 to 1981 FIGURE 3-1 Change in vocational education enrollments (in percent). SOURCE: USDE, 1983.

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION Technical ~ Occupational home economics I; Dist _ . 29 2a'~ i'""' C:\ occupations j3~~ Consumer and ~ homemaking Trade and industrial FIGURE 3-2 Distribution in vocational education enrollments. SOURCE: USDE, 1983. culture found that rural residents and agribusiness representatives wanted such programs, but school administrators did not. The admin- istrators cited a lack of student interest, facilities, money, and need for vocational agriculture (Parmley, 19821. Minority Enrollments . Historically, vocational agriculture has been most attractive to white male students in rural areas. Enrollment trends show that more girls are now enrolling in vocational agriculture, but minority enrollment remains disproportionately low. The committee identified several pos- sible reasons for relatively low minority and female enrollment in vo- cational agriculture programs. Many farming communities where vocational agriculture is most common are still predominantly white. Black and other minority stu- dents, such as those of Hispanic or Asian origins, in many states and most urban areas have little exposure to agriculture or agriculture ed- ucation. In a survey conducted by the University of California at Davis, black students questioned for a survey gave two main reasons for their lack of interest in agriculture: they didn't know much about the agri- cultural system, and what they did know led them to view agriculture as a financially risky line of work (Mallory and Sommer, 1986a,b). Some

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30 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE black students may avoid vocational agriculture because of its associ- ation with slavery. Vocational agriculture may not attract blacks and Hispanics because they have traditionally held low-paying menial jobs in agriculture. Vocational agriculture educators know they need to improve their efforts to reach minority students. As one California educator ex- plained to the committee: We're headed for a change in California's minority population and what we are doing is not working. Agriculture has a big negative image problem with most minority groups and we have to change it. It needs to start in grammar school and be nurtured through high school. (Bower, 1986) Vocational agriculture educators also need to reach disadvantaged and disabled students. Female enrollment in vocational agriculture varies from school dis- trict to school district and program to program. It is common to find relatively high percentages of girls enrolled in horticulture courses within vocational agriculture programs; in some states and school dis- tricts, a higher percentage of girls are enrolling in these courses than in recent years. In California, not only were far more females enrolling in vocational agriculture (girls accounted for 39.2 percent of FFA mem- bership in a recent survey), but they also held 45.2 percent of the chap- ter offices (Leising and Emo, 19841. Nationally, girls account for about 15 percent of FFA membership; about half the number of high school students are girls. Progress is being made in some states, especially in the Northeast, to open up both the FFA and vocational agriculture programs to nontraditional enrollees. Neither the testimony heard by the committee nor available studies explain why female enrollment has grown so much in some states and chapters. One plausible explanation is that ornamental horticulture is a very attractive career in urban and suburban areas. Research on the question is neither clear nor consistent. Some studies show that girls were encouraged to enter vocational agriculture programs, while oth- ers found they were discouraged (Parmley et al., 1981; Higgins, 19841. Most states should make stronger recruitment efforts to bring more minority and female students into vocational agriculture programs. These students need to be alerted to educational choices within the school and career opportunities in food, agriculture, and related indus- tries and occupations. Demographics affect challenges faced by vocational agriculture edu- cators in different parts of the country. In the South, for example, where about 85 percent of the nation's black farmers live, the continued de- cline of land ownership and control of farm operations by blacks is a

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 31 serious concern (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 19821. There and elsewhere, agricultural educators must be especially sensitive to the needs of all students and the community. Some minority students also have special educational needs in aca- demic subjects and vocational courses. Vocational agriculture teachers need to accommodate diverse educational needs. The creation of vocational agriculture programs in schools where none exist calls for policy incentives. These incentives are especially important in urban communities where most of the minority popula- tion lives. Vocational agriculture educators in communities with mi- nority students should establish new links with underrepre- sented groups of students through community leaders; churches; and local organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H. Minority business people and employers should be encour- aged to help create new supervised occupational experience programs. The local news media and FFA publications and chapter and state meetings should continue to feature female and minority students who have won achievements and honors. In setting the future course for vocational agriculture edu- cation, education leaders should consider demographic trends in a region's total population, farm population, food and fiber industries, and other employment opportunities in the service or business sectors related to agriculture. PROGRAM CONTENT The Current Curriculum In content, the vocational agriculture curriculum has failed to keep up with modern agriculture. More flexibility in curriculum and pro- gram design and the requirements and activities of the FFA is essen- tial. One educator's analysis is typical of statements heard repeatedly by the committee: In spite of the rhetoric of the profession that we are not training primarily for farming occupations and that agriculture education has changed dramatically, the typical agriculture program remains much as it was when the Vocational Education Act of 1963 was passed. Production agriculture, taught by a single teacher, in a general high school, remains the norm. (Camp, 1986) The production focus of most vocational agriculture programs can be

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32 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE traced, in part, to two studies that widely influenced vocational curric- ula across the nation. In 1977, Iowa State University, under the spon- sorship of the U.S. Office of Education, conducted a study to specify standards for quality programs of vocational agriculture (Standards for Quality Vocational Programs in Agriculture/Agribusiness Educa- tion, 1977~. Many states subsequently adopted the recommendations in the Iowa study, which emphasized production agriculture subjects. A nationwide competency study in 1978 also played a key role (McClay, 19784. It was conducted to identify and validate competencies needed for entry and advancement in 196 agriculture and agribusiness occu- pations. Traditional agricultural programs and occupations dominated the findings and recommendations, which in turn affected curriculum design in vocational agriculture programs across the country. Available statistics on program subject matter also point to the dom- inance of production agriculture. In 1986, 40.7 percent of vocational agriculture teachers in secondary schools taught full-time in produc- tion agriculture programs; 30.0 percent were ir1 part-time production agriculture programs with one or more classes in specialized programs, such as agricultural mechanics; and the remainder taught classes in ornamental horticulture, natural resources, agricultural products, ag- ricultural sales and services, and agricultural mechanics (Camp, 19874. Current vocational agriculture programs that have changed little over the past decade prepare students for a rather limited and gener- ally shrinking component of the job market. These programs are also geared to a shrinking segment of the student population. They proba- bly give some students an unrealistic view of agricultural job pros- pects, while failing to alert them to other career opportunities in agriculture. New efforts are needed to reform secondary school agriculture pro- grams to better prepare students for agricultural-sector growth indus- tries. An essential step toward achieving this goal is to fully accept the broadened definition of agriculture education recommended by the committee. In some cases, this will require change in or abandonment of vocational guidelines. Under vocational agriculture, this definition would include greater diversity of career paths, such as scientific re- search, technology development, medical and social services, finance, law, business, management, and marketing. The organization name, symbols, contests, awards, and re- quirements for advancement in the FFA are still largely geared toward production agriculture. Because the FFA influences vo- cational agriculture so greatly, some change within the I?FA is needed along with program and curriculum reform. The curric- ulum should drive the youth organization, not the reverse.

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 33 Uneven Quality Although many more students have access to vocational agriculture programs than enroll in them, only a small percentage of schools offers students an opportunity to enroll in a high-quality vocational pro- gram. The characteristics of high-quality programs include extensive contact between students and teachers and a diversity of rewarding SOE opportunities. The committee is aware of only a few states that have a routine pro- cess to evaluate the vocational curriculum or have quality control stan- dards to identify and assess weaknesses within programs. California has developed such standards and a process for self-renewal that could serve as a model for consideration by other states. In developing such standards, the accomplishments of high-quality programs should be studied and used as models, particularly those that give students educational experiences in many areas of agricultural business and science. Special agricultural science schools in Philadel- phia and Chicago are valuable models for other cities and rural areas studying the feasibility of setting up science- and business-oriented programs. Good programs attract a cross-section of the high school population, including student leaders and individuals bound for college. Poor pro- grams suffer declining enrollments and rarely can hold the interest of students who are high achievers. While good programs are generally expensive, poor programs tend to cost nearly as much or more on a per student basis. It is important to keep in mind that vocational agriculture is not the most expensive vo- cational education or basic education program in our schools. Despite growing pressures on school budgets, some communities continue to support weak programs because of their long-standing commitments to vocational agriculture and the FFA. These communities are often eager for new ideas and options that could strengthen agricultural ed- ucation. Programs that are not meeting students' needs and lack com- munity and school support are a poor use of resources. Steps should be taken to upgrade, consolidate, or, as a last resort, phase out such programs. Care should be exercised in devising and implementing remedial strategies within a school district to assure that support and resources are not diverted from programs with capable teachers, sufficient en- rollments, and community support. In fact, strong programs may de- serve additional resources. The committee emphasizes that strong programs are the result of strong teachers and support from principals and school district admin- istrators. Innovation in program design and content typically occurs

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34 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE because a teacher chooses to go beyond the standard curriculum and program model and has the opportunity to do so. The current voca- tional structure and funding criteria do not sufficiently encourage in- novation within the classroom, however, and can even penalize those trying to broaden the scope of the agricultural curriculum. Some of the most successful and innovative schools have even dropped the term "vocational" from their names and course titles because of their un- willingness or inability to function within the prescribed, traditional boundaries of vocational agriculture education. Federal and state laws and program criteria governing the allocation of vocational funds are responsible for these constraints. State leaders must assist school boards, administrators, and local leaders to address the uneven quality of vocational agri- culture programs and make available adequate resources to support recommended program improvements. Improving Quality The committee found it easy to identify the reasons some vocational agriculture programs are weak. The absence of leadership among those responsible for vocational agriculture education programs is the pri- mary cause of weak programs. The following steps must be taken to improve weak programs: identify and define the problems and causes; develop a strategic plan to improve program quality; provide the resources to carry out the plan for improvement; and evaluate the results of the plan for improvement, and make necessary adjustments on a timely basis. Each school will experience different challenges and must develop its own strategy. These strategies include upgrading the vocational ag- riculture education program to attract higher levels of school, student, and community support; securing more competent teachers; upgrading the relevance of the curriculum; consolidation with a closely associated program or technical school in the same school district; and integrat- ing agricultural subject matter into other components of the curricu- lum. In light of the emphasis and evidence that quality teachers are the critical ingredient for quality programs, adequate attention must be focused on teacher evaluation, in-service education, new curriculum directions, recruitment, and training.

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 35 Successful reform efforts within vocational agriculture pro- grams will rely on strong programmatic leadership at the state and national levels. The major leadership challenges include program evaluation, teacher education, curriculum develop- ment, assuring adequate resources at the local level, and creat- ing a more flexible legislative and budgetary framework. Each school with a program in agriculture education should have an active advisory council comprised of school administra- tors; curriculum specialists; and local leaders in agricultural or- ganizations, agribusiness, and public service. Ongoing efforts should be expanded and accelerated to up- grade the scientific and technical content of vocational agricul- ture courses. The "vocational" label should be avoided to help attract students with diverse interests, including the college bound and those aspiring to professional and scientific careers in agriculture. Agricultural courses sufficiently upgraded in sci- ence content should be credited toward satisfying college en- trance and high school graduation requirements for science courses in addition to the core curriculum. New curriculum components must be developed and made available to teachers addressing the sciences basic to agricul- ture, food, and natural resources; agribusiness; marketing; man- agement; international economics; financial accounting; and tools to improve the efficiency of agricultural productivity. A center for curriculum design and staff development in- volving faculty from colleges of agriculture and education should be established, preferably at the land-grant university in each state. Center staff should be available to provide direct help to local agriculture programs. Federal challenge grants should be provided to states ready and willing to take on this task. School district officials should find new methods of cooper- ation among those involved in teaching agriculture education, including secondary and postsecondary teachers, active parent volunteers, the CES and university experts, and organizations like 4-H and the FFA. Model Programs The committee identified several successful, high-quality, agricul- ture education programs that have combined strengths of the tradi- tional vocational program model with new approaches and broadened curricula. Two are in specialized high schools of agriculture that also provide students with comprehensive instruction in other subjects.

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION Two students at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences look over their flowers before the annual bedding plant sale, which is held in the community. The school pre- pares students to pursue career opportunities in horticul- ture, biotechnology, food science, agribusiness, commodi- ties trading, golf course and greenhouse management, landscape design, and animal science. 37 Chase Farm located in a Philadelphia suburb and the city park system (Walter Biddle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, n.d.~. The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences is meeting a sim- ilar need. This magnet school began instruction in September 1985 (Russell, 19871. The curriculum is college preparatory and vocational at the same time. Agricultural science courses that mix science and more traditional vocational education include biotechnology; food, computer, plant, and animal sciences; agricultural finance; agribusi- ness; horticulture; landscape design; and golf course management. The curriculum places strong emphasis on basic intellectual and academic skills. In its first 2 years of operation, the school gained strong support from agribusiness leaders, parents, community members, and stu- dents. Student support was shown by the school's remarkable 93 per- cent attendance rate and zero dropout rate. Job placement remains an important, although narrow criterion for judging vocational program effectiveness. The Chicago school is too

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38 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE new to evaluate in terms of job placements for graduates, but the Wal- ter Biddle Saul High School has a good record (Hart, 19851. Employers from the Philadelphia area recruit graduates of this school. Job oppor- tunities in horticulture; landscaping; and planning and maintaining parks, golf courses, and gardens are common (R. J. Hunter, Walter Bid- dle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, personal communica- tion, 19881. Many graduates of the Walter Biddle Saul High School go on to college and careers in the agricultural sciences or other fields related to the food and fiber system. The committee views these spe- cialized high schools as models for change and innovation, testing grounds for new ideas, and demonstrations of new programs in agri- culture education. Alvirne High School in Hudson, New Hampshire, offers another ex- ample of a vocational agriculture program that has adapted to meet the new needs of students. In the late 1960s, with the completion of the state's first interstate highway, the community was transformed from a farming area to a fast-growing suburb of Boston (Palmer, 1985~. The vocational agriculture program was a one-teacher, traditional, produc- tion agriculture program. Instead of abolishing vocational agriculture, the school district inves- tigated alternative ways in which the program could serve the com- munity (Palmer, 19851. The investigation included a study of labor trends and requirements of agriculture-related occupations in the com- munity. It found a demand for welders, small-engine mechanics, sur- veyors, grounds keepers, greenskeepers, florists, and agricultural sales and service employees. As a result, the district updated the program by adding courses in renewable natural resources, horticulture, and agricultural mechanics. It also hired an instructor to work with disad- vantaged and handicapped students. Students now have opportunities for supervised occupational experiences in the school-run greenhouse, agricultural shop, orchard, landscape nursery, grounds, and livestock barns. They also participate in a cooperative work experience off cam- pus during their junior and senior years (Palmer, 19851. In Illinois, the Sycamore High School vocational agriculture pro- gram has likewise adapted to change. The traditional production agri- culture program has been expanded, and new programs have been added in areas such as horticulture, landscaping, and greenhouse and nursery management (Guilinger and Dietz, 19851. Students may also enroll in courses in agriculture-related occupations, which combine on- thejob experience with course work. The Anderson Valley Agricultural Institute (AVAI) of the Anderson Valley High School in Boonville, California, serves the needs of the entire student body, including high-risk and special-needs youth. Many

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 39 of the high-risk and special-needs students live in local group homes and are enrolled in the vocational agriculture program for only a year or two. Program goals include reorienting these students, building their self-esteem, and creating an interest in agriculture and a desire to be in school. It is estimated that this program keeps as many as 10 of the 75 students enrolled in AVAI from dropping out of high school. In fact, many are motivated to go to college. Student participation in the program is a better indicator of the pro- gram's success than job placement. The student population is transient because of the students in group homes. Students are sometimes al- lowed to return to their home schools before graduating from Anderson Valley. These factors lower the rate of program completion and job placement upon leaving the program (S. A. McKay, Anderson Valley High School, personal communication, 19884. Federal and state education leaders should support the es- tablishment of specialized secondary schools in each of three areas urban, suburban, and rural. These schools should offer traditional academic courses that incorporate relevant agricul- tural topics to nurture agricultural literacy. They should also of- fer special courses in the agricultural sciences, nutrition, horti- culture, agribusiness marketing and management, and other related agricultural subjects. Special federal and state financial incentives may be needed to help school districts establish such schools. Educational Technology The science, technology, and business of agriculture are growing rap- idly in complexity. Management and marketing decisions depend on access to a range of information and the capacity to apply it to appro- priate circumstances. As a first step, vocational agriculture classes, like others, should help prepare students to use computers as analytical and reference tools. Computers, video, and telecommunications can add new dimensions to vocational agriculture programs. These technologies can help teachers respond to student needs and interests as enrollment patterns and sub- ject contents diversify. Moreover, initial investments made in hardware and software could reduce the costs of bringing new instructional mod- ules and sources of information into vocational programs. During its field visits, the committee learned about the use of com- puters and other forms of educational technology in some vocational agriculture programs. Although the use of electronic educational tech

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40 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE nology in these programs is limited, promising results have occurred in some applications. The Ag Ed Network is one example of what can be accomplished with available technology. Part of the AgriData Network, the Ag Ed Net- work is used as a "live textbook" in many vocational agriculture class- rooms. It provides news reports about agriculture; other forms of on- line information, particularly information dealing with agribusiness and marketing; and guidance on where more in-depth information can be obtained (B. Herz, AgriData Resources, Inc., personal communica- tion, 19884. The committee found that vocational agriculture teachers who used or were familiar with the Ag Ed Network responded posi- tively to it. There has been insufficient time and experience with applications of new educational technologies in the vocational agriculture classroom to judge their full potential or the needs of teachers in adapting them to ongoing programs. It is not surprising that most of the vocational computer programs developed so far are oriented toward production agriculture. Some of these programs are useful in helping students to manage flocks and plan and track budgets. Software and other mate- rial on most nontraditional subjects are very limited. This scarcity is regrettable because the committee views such applications as amend the most valuable and needed educational technologies. .~ ~1:~: _~ ~ ~r ~ _1 _ _~_ 1 ~ ~ . . . ~JV`Jll "}J~llU=LlUi1~ ~1 olorecnnolo~, 1ncludlng disease monitoring kid and other assay methods based on monoclonal antibodies, will be more accessible. Students will need to understand how these assay systems work and the conditions under which they are accurate. Interactive video discs can be used in conjunction with standard computers and software to guide students through specialized classroom projects and exercises. Advancing telecommunications or satellite technology will provide opportunities not widely available today in future classrooms. This technology could be very important to improving food and fiber literacy in the United States and other countries, as well as showing how agricultural and environmental concerns are closely linked. Agriculture education teachers should seek out and share high-quality software and curricular materials for agriculture management and planning and instructional applications. Pri- vate-sector assistance should be sought in developing new in- structional modules, exercises, and software. Political and business leaders at all levels should help teach- ers obtain access to promising instructional technologies. This help should include adequate funds to support use by teachers and students and troubleshooting assistance. Science curriculum development programs funded by fed

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 41 eral or state governments or private foundations and led by pro- fessional associations should pursue opportunities to use com- puters, video discs, and other educational technologies. SUPERVISED OCCUPATIONAL EXPERIENCES The supervised occupational experience (SOE) has long been a part of Vocational agriculture and still is today. The committee identified several findings about the SOE component of vocational agricultural programs, including why it must adapt to future needs. Testimony presented to the committee reinforced several common characteristics of high-quality SOEs. First, these SOEs were charac- terized by involved teachers, planned experiences, adequate resources, and student placement in agribusinesses or on commercial farms. A positive relationship typically exists between high-quality SOE pro- grams and student achievement in vocational agriculture and employ- ment in agriculture after graduation (Mick, 19831. Second, in the committee's judgment, not all vocational agriculture students need SOEs throughout their 4-year vocational programs. Four years of SOE should remain the goal, however. In reality, some stu- dents may not have a meaningful SOE opportunity in all 4 years of program enrollment. Structural changes in agriculture have reduced the number and diversity of SOE opportunities in many areas. If teach- ers spend less time trying to develop SOEs where no great opportuni- ties exist, they will have more time for other activities, including man- agement of those students with SOEs. A student who wants to carry out a continuous 4-year SOE, such as an animal husbandry project, should not be discouraged or penalized for doing so. It is preferable to seek out and plan for 2 or 3 years of a rewarding SOE than to insist on a 4-year program of uneven quality or minimal relevance. The growing importance of the food processing and marketing indus- tries and the emergence of new jobs involving applications of biotech- nology to agriculture may open up many new SOE opportunities in urban and rural communities. There are also many public service professionals who could become SOE sponsors. For example, a valuable SOE for a student could mean working as an elementary school teach- er's aide and helping with a lesson plan in plant genetics, or with a nutritionist advising new mothers on how to care for infants in the areas of diet, nutrition, and health. As a goal, all students should participate in worthwhile SOEs while enrolled in vocational agriculture programs. Stu- dents should not be penalized in their program standing or

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42 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE FFA activities if a suitable high-quality SOE is sometimes unavailable. A broader range of SOEs should be encouraged. SOEs should include time in research laboratories, banks, and food retailing and marketing and work with commodity markets, el- ementary schools, and many other new areas. Cooperation and commitment should be sought from the agribusiness commu- ruty. Emphasis should be placed on the experience and entrepre- neurship, not only on the occupation. Special summer SOE programs should be explored as an al- ternative in school districts where students cannot locate high- quality SOE opportunities. Summer programs might even in- volve travel to locations where desirable SOEs are available. Some locations might include an agricultural experiment sta- tion, a food processing factory, or an industrial laboratory. Although management and financial skills should be a part of most production-oriented SOEs, profit should only occasion- ally be a principal factor in evaluating SOE achievements. Pub- lic service and academic endeavors, such as work in an elemen- tary classroom or a research laboratory, respectively, should be encouraged. The emphasis of SOEs should be on learning, with an appreciation for earning. Schools should consider providing on-site laboratory facili- ties for SOEs that involve activities that can be undertaken after school without interfering with other instructional programs. School land laboratories, greenhouses, nurseries, grounds, and agricultural mechanics laboratories can provide opportunities. FUTURE FARMERS OF AMERICA As a national organization, the FFA has been part of vocational ag- riculture since 1928. The FFA is dedicated to fostering leadership, self- confidence, and citizenship skills. It also strives to teach students to appreciate agriculture and about the career opportunities open to them in the agriculture and food and fiber industries. About 95 percent of all secondary schools that offer vocational agriculture have an FFA chapter, and about 75 percent of vocational agriculture students are members (National FFA Organization, 19864. Under the direction of the vocational agriculture teacher, FFA mem- bers hold meetings, practice public speaking, demonstrate proficiency in various occupational skills, participate in community improvement efforts, and earn awards through local, state, and national contests. It

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 43 is clear that students in high-quality FFA chapters gain far more from the program than those in lower-quality FFA chapters. The quality of FFA chapters varies as much as the quality of voca- tional agriculture programs varies. As an organization for high school students enrolled in vocational agriculture, the FFA has a record of accomplishment and the capacity to foster individual improvement. For many students, the FFA achieves its goal of developing entrepreneur- ial skills, leadership, and citizenship. Still, the FFA's image, name, symbols, ceremonies, and production-agriculture focus lessen for many students the attractiveness of enrollment in vocational agriculture programs and interfere with needed changes in the curriculum content of these programs. The committee believes the FFA needs to change its image. The or- ganization must broaden its nearly exclusive focus on traditional pro- duction agriculture. Even its name, the Future Farmers of America, continues to reinforce a narrow view of the organization, vocational agriculture education, and agriculture in general. Although some peo- ple have suggested that dropping the "Future Farmers of America" name and only using the FFA initials would change the FFA's image, it is doubtful. To the public, the full name and the initials are well known and interchangeable. Based on evidence and testimony, the committee finds that some vo- cational agriculture teachers are unduly driven by a desire to help stu- dents excel in traditional production-oriented FFA contests and award programs. These teachers tend to place less emphasis on delivering agricultural instruction in the classroom, updating curricula, or in- volving the business community in the vocational agriculture pro- gram. In many communities, the high school vocational agriculture program is known as the "FFA program"; the vocational agriculture teacher is known as the "FFA teacher." In such schools, it is hard to direct public attention toward the need for curriculum reform or agri- culture's role in college preparation or more career opportunities. In many vocational programs a principal focus of class time and extracur- ricular activity is preparing students to compete in traditional, produc- tion-oriented FFA contests and award programs. The committee recognizes that the FFA may be slow to change or disagree about the need or direction for change. The committee is hope- ful, though, that the FFA's ongoing reviews of its name, traditions, procedures, contests, awards, and degree requirements for advance- ment will lead to constructive changes. The FFA is also supporting efforts to develop new science-based instructional materials and spe- cial activities to foster understanding of scientific and technological developments important to the agricultural, food, and fiber industries.

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44 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE For example, the FFA has a program that recognizes vocational agri- culture teachers who have shown that they use applied agricultural science effectively in their instruction and students who have demon- strated the use of agricultural science principles in their research proj- ects. Similar FFA activities are needed that accompany curriculum de- velopment projects in the marketing, management, policy, financial, and international aspects of agriculture. In high schools that have vocational agriculture programs but do not have FFA chapters, the FFA should explore ways to make the organization accessible. The FFA should adopt a new name, symbols, and rituals (ac- cording to all applicable federal and state laws) consistent with a contemporary, forward-looking image of agriculture. The FFA should revise the nature, focus, and award struc ........... ...... ................. ..... _ Many students become interested in chemistry and biol- ogy through exposure to examples from the agricultural sciences. Here, a student at Canby Union High School, Canby, Oregon, completes a soil test to determine soil fertility.

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION .:::::::::::~Q . ................................................. .................................................................... Steven A. McKay of Anderson Valley High School, Boon- ville, California, assists two of his students to clone a plant using tissue culture technology. McKay interests his stu- dents in science by involving them in cloning plants, test- ing new horticultural products, and engineering better ways to grow food. 45 lure of its contests and activities to open more new categories of competition in areas outside production agriculture; reduce the number of production-oriented activities and programs; attract minorities and girls into vocational agriculture programs; and minimize absences and conflicts with regular school programs. The FFA should encourage enrollment by students unable or unwilling to participate in a 4-year program of vocational agri- culture or SOEs. TEACHER EDUCATION Vocational agriculture relies on dedicated teachers. The committee is concerned that vocational agriculture teachers are still being pre- pared to teach mainly traditional production agriculture. To offer more

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46 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE current programs to a broader range of students, teachers will need to acquire knowledge and teaching skills related to agribusiness market- ing, public policy, economics, finance, science and technology, and in- ternational agriculture. In the United States, vocational agriculture teachers are educated in 89 programs in colleges and universities. For the Peters and Moore (1984) study, survey recipients in only 64 programs responded. Of that number, 69 percent are based in schools of agriculture, and 31 percent in colleges of education. In some states, teachers may enter the field without degrees on the basis of occupational experience alone. Other states require competency tests (W. G. Camp, Virginia Polytechnic In- stitute and State University, personal communication, 1988~. Vocational agriculture teacher education combines instruction about agriculture with instruction in teaching. Recently, greater emphasis has been placed on communication skills, basic science, computers, mathematics, humanities and social sciences, international agricul- tural systems, problem-based instruction, and high-technology agricul- ture. The emphasis on traditional production agriculture is beginning to shift, albeit slowly (Reisch, 1986~. Graduates who accepted positions as vocational agriculture teachers reported that the practical and technical parts of their schooling were the most useful, while courses in education, pedagogy, and the human- ities were the least useful. Other studies found that vocational agricul- ture teachers identified student teaching as the most helpful part of their education (Lee, 1985~. The number of agriculture education graduates qualified to teach dropped from 1,207 in 1985 to 964 in 1986. This decline resulted in the smallest number of graduates since 1965. The decline is also acceler- ating. Between 1975 and 1980, the number dropped 5 percent; between 1980 and 1985, 24 percent (Camp, 19871. Only a portion of graduates enters teaching (Camp, 19871. In 1965, 64.6 percent of newly qualified teachers of agriculture education en- tered teaching. In 1986, the percentage had fallen to 41.2 percent (Camp, 19871. The same study found that the proportion of agriculture education graduates who entered agribusiness rose from 7.5 percent in 1975 to 16.3 percent in 1986. At the same time, fewer vocational agriculture teaching jobs exist. In 1986, there were 11,042 positions in the United States. This figure continues the general downward trend that began in 1979, following a 1978 peak of 12,844 (Camp, 19871. The decline from 1985 to 1986 has been the largest of the 1980s, resulting in 5 percent, or 645, fewer po- sitions (Camp, 19871. Declining enrollments continue to reduce the number of vocational agriculture teaching jobs. The number of vocational agriculture de

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VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION 47 partments that could not operate in the fall of 1986 because of the lack of a qualified teacher fell for the first time to zero (Camp, 19874. The committee is skeptical, however, that there is an adequate supply of teachers with the broader range of interests and teaching skills that may be needed in future agriculture courses of the type recommended in this report. Teacher education programs in agriculture should continue to stress applied learning, but should strengthen instruction in science, technology, economics, agribusiness marketing and management, international agriculture, and public policy. The federal government and elementary and secondary school teachers involved in teaching agriculture should work to develop, refine, and adopt methods for the transfer of informa- tion and knowledge from research laboratories and agricultural experiment stations to high school classrooms. An emphasis is needed on new methods to teach agribusiness marketing and management, principles of science, public policy, and interna- tional agriculture. Teacher education programs in agriculture should establish formal links with colleges of agriculture and education, cooper- ative extension, and private-sector organizations to develop new in-service programs and opportunities for teachers and administrators. Colleges of agriculture should become more involved in cur- riculum reform, creation of new material and courses, and in- service education programs. The USDA should encourage these goals. One way to do this might be to provide challenge grants to states seeking to create new linkages between agricultural education administrators and faculty within colleges of agricul- ture and education. Each state should examine the feasibility of developing a center for curriculum design and teacher and ad- ministrators counselor training based at its land-grant university. Teacher educators in agriculture should establish better links with colleagues in other colleges, such as experts in science education, business management, and educational technology. Colleges of agriculture should encourage and help recruit talented students to enter the teaching profession. Departments of agriculture education should develop programs to inform school district counselors about career opportunities in the ag- ricultural education professions.