On August 23rd, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) held a Webinar, “College and Career Readiness for All,” profiling the 2011 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School, Worcester Technical High School (WTHS), a Massachusetts high school that was one of the lowest performing vocational schools in the state and had the lowest school exam grades in the city until the school began its turn- around process in 2006. It is now one of the highest performing schools in the state, with a 95.8% graduation rate in 2011 and 97% college and career placement rate in 2012.
Sheila Harrity, the school’s principal, set the stage by sharing WTHS’s demographic information as a means to understanding its’ improvement approach. With a total of 1,400 students, 150 teachers, and 80 to85 vocational and technical instructors, this urban school serves a student body where 21% of students have special needs and 65% qualify for free/reduced-price lunch. The school was founded over 100 years ago and moved into a new facility in 2006.. Since 2002, it has improved its proficiency scores from 13% (ELA) and 4% (Math), to 77% (ELA) and 74% (Math) in 2011. The school’s success comes from a shift in practices starting in 2006. In addition to their new facility, WTHS increased rigor by doubling the amount of honors courses offered and adding Advanced Placement (AP) options to the curriculum.
The school provides opportunities for students to earn college credit through partnering with local community colleges. In exchange for free credit-bearing classes for its students, Worcester lets the colleges use its classrooms at night. The school’s technical program is divided into four academies: Alden Design & Engineering; Allied Health and Human Services; Coghlin Construction Technology; and IT and Business Services. Each academy has six technical centers: Automotive Collision; Welding Technology; Early Childhood Education; Environmental Technology; Carpentry; Painting and Design Technology; Culinary Arts; and Business Information systems, among others. The school has an authentic learning component that allows students to learn real-life skills outside the classroom setting, by working in local businesses such as credit unions, bakeries, salons, restaurants, preschools, or auto collision departments As a result of their experience and placement, students are often hired to work full-time at these local businesses after graduation. View Principal Sheila Harrity’s Webinar presentation here.
This event is part of NASSP’s ongoing Webinar series, Breaking Ranks Framework.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.