seal  Purdue News

August 4, 2003

Purdue experts can comment on career thinking for high schoolers and views of Head Start proposals


High school provides ideal time for career exploration, professor says

As high school students prepare to make decisions about their future careers, they should not assume they have to focus only on the subjects they are best at, a Purdue career and technical education expert says.

"Many students reach high school graduation with excellent academic credentials but with no idea of 'What I want to do when I grow up,'" says James P. Greenan a professor of curriculum and instruction. "They have never been encouraged to explore that idea on their own. Just because someone is a good writer or good at math does not mean they want to – or should want to – make a career in that area."

Teachers and parents tend to steer students toward specific academic areas, but Greenan says it is imperative to ask young people about their career interests and to allow them to explore those interests while in school.

Greenan says participating in work-based learning such as cooperative education while in high school can play a valuable role in helping young people answer questions about their future.

While cooperative education has traditionally been viewed as an option primarily for high-school students not planning on attending college, Greenan says more and more students are incorporating work experiences into college preparatory education. These, and other experiences such as internships and job shadowing, can help young people make more informed decisions about careers they may want to pursue.

"There is a big difference between being interested in a career and enjoying the daily work," Greenan says. "The sooner young people have the opportunity to supplement their academic work with career exploration, the sooner they can focus on a career they likely will enjoy."

CONTACT: Greenan, (765) 494-7314,


Expert says Head Start OK as is

A Purdue University Head Start researcher says the national movement to place federal preschool program under individual states' control would do more harm than good.

"Head Start is not broken, so why make radical and risky changes in its funding and administration," asks James Elicker, an associate professor of child development and former Head Start teacher, education coordinator and state training coordinator for 10 years.

"There is substantial evidence that Head Start improves the school readiness, long-term educational outcomes and health of low-income children, as well as provides needed support and education for their parents," Elicker says. "The program has extremely high customer-satisfaction ratings, too."

Elicker, who is conducting research with three Early Head Start programs in Lafayette, Kokomo and Marion, says if the states inherit control of the program, it is likely the current comprehensive focus of Head Start will be lost. This change could eliminate critical services, such as promoting children's social and emotional well-being in addition to their academic skills, health and dental screenings and treatment, mental health services, parent-education programs and social services.

"Also it is my understanding that the proposed legislation does not strongly mandate states to follow the current national Head Start program performance standards," Elicker says.

These performance standards have been the keystone of Head Start's quality and improvement over the past 37 years, Elicker says.

"If the performance standards are loosened, or if states are able to set their own standards according to changing political whims, Head Start as a high-quality national program for low-income children will soon be dismantled."

CONTACT: Elicker, (765) 494-2938,