Programs that incorporate work-based learning (WBL) experiences into school activities are proliferating, yet little is known about their quality as learning experiences for young people or the costs associated with participating in them. This article examines two programs operating in the same school district, where students receive course credit for participating in WBL. One program provides unpaid internships for each year of high school; the other provides paid work experience for one semester. Learning opportunities each offers are contrasted, as measured by a student survey and a case study of program operations. Two issues are examined: the quality of students' work experiences in these programs and the relationship between program participation and school learning, including effects on school work and social experiences. Findings raise questions about the value added of WBL, given costs associated with program design, delivery, and, in some cases, participation.
Originally published in: Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, v. 20, no. 1, Spring 1998, pp. 31-46.
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