Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Industrial Education and Technology

First Advisor

John C. Dugger, III


This investigation compares academic achievement and employability skills of high school students enrolled in applied academics courses versus traditional courses. Outcomes from three American College Testing Work Keys assessment tests--Applied Mathematics (AM), Applied Technology (AT), and Reading for Information (RFI)--were used as measures of employability skills. Data were collected under quasi-experimental conditions on 1,321 students from 9 Iowa high schools. The data included school, type of course (applied or traditional), course subject matter, class within course, gender, grade, grade point average (GPA), Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED) score, test content area, and test score;Findings included: (1) Group means for GPA, ITED, and all 3 tests were higher for traditional than applied students. (2) Students scoring below the minimum skill level assessed on the tests (Level 3) were not restricted to those with below average GPA or ITED scores. (3) Over 41% of students taking the AT test scored below the cutoff of 3. In contrast only 7.2% of all students taking the RFI test and only 2.5% of all students taking the AM test scored below the cutoff. (4) Males had higher average scores on the AM and AT tests, while females had higher average scores on the RFI test;Conclusions and recommendations include: (1) These findings should not be taken as evidence of a superiority of traditional teaching methods over applied academics. These were not equivalent groups being compared under true experimental conditions; nor can one discount the possibility of omitted intercorrelated independent variables in the regression equations. (2) Additional measures of employability skills besides test scores are needed to fully investigate the effectiveness of applied academics. (3) Growth of students' employability skills over time should be monitored. Data should be collected at periodic intervals for analysis and should include measures of performance in both school and workplace. (4) Independent variables, other than those included in the study, may account for significant variability related to test scores. (5) The results of this investigation should not be generalized to all Iowa high schools due to limited sample size and lack of an adequate cross-section.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Dennis Wayne Field



Proquest ID


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File Size

323 pages