Mariel Stein

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2011

Capstone Advisor

William Coplin

Honors Reader

Ansley Erickson

Capstone Major

Public Administration

Capstone College

Citizenship and Public Affairs

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Education Policy | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


This Capstone Project discusses high school students’ knowledge of careers and non-college post-secondary options. The problem this project addresses is the fact that many high school students lack adequate knowledge of careers and non-college post-secondary options, and therefore they often make poor decisions regarding their post-secondary plans.

The methodology used was research, observations, and personal communication. I conducted inductive research because I felt that my information of high school vocational education was too narrow and I wanted to broaden my knowledge to see what the trend is across the country, what the causes of the aforementioned problem are, and what attempts are being made nationwide to reform high school education and solve this problem. When researching this, I searched for evidence of students’ lack of knowledge about careers; this evidence came from researchers, education administrators – including teachers, principals, and superintendents – authors, and economists I used past surveys, educational reports, and books that further explained this problem, its causes, and its consequences. I sought out experimental programs and models that high schools across the country were using to reform the education system in an effort to solve this problem.

For the observational component, I observed one classroom in the College and Career Program at the Brooklyn Generation high school for 7 hours per day for 5 days per week for one month. I taught one class for 5 hours for one day per class for a total of 15 hours. I distributed evaluations to approximately 50 students upon completion of my lesson plan. I kept a journal in which I recorded my observations, the class’s daily activities, the students’ opinions of the class, the teachers’ opinions of the students, and the teachers’ plans and goals for the class.

I had personal communication with approximately five Syracuse University students about their high schools for 3 hours weekly in the 3CSkills class at Syracuse University. During this time, I also participated in discussions regarding the skills necessary for success in college and careers and the work that high schools can do to introduce students to these skills and to careers.

The argument I make in this project is that students lack adequate knowledge of careers and non-college post-secondary options due to the following five reasons: 1) the historic tension between vocational education and traditional academic education; 2) the standards movement; 3) the college-for-all mentality; 4) the institutional factors of American high schools; and 5) the psychology of adolescents. Vocational education refers to high school education that either prepares students for careers or makes them knowledgeable about careers. Career exploration programs, which I refer to throughout the thesis, are defined as high school programs that allow students to explore various careers.

The above problem has led to a high college dropout rate and low attainment rates for certificates and post-secondary degrees in the U.S., and increased high school dropout rates.

In conclusion, the abovementioned problem is a significant and national one that affects students, schools, and the country as a whole. There are many schools and national organizations striving to reform high school education by incorporating career exploration programs but there is still much work that needs to be done in order to adequately teach students about careers and prepare them for the world after high school.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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