Reaching All Students Through Career and Technical Education

A rigorous career and technical education (CTE) program and high expectations for all students guide the success of Worcester (MA) Technical High School, led by NASSP National High School Principal of the Year Sheila Harrity.

Worcester Tech, which was also named a MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School in 2011, has 1,400 students in 24 technical programs within four small learning communities. Once the lowest-performing high school in the city and the poorest performing vocational school in the state, the students are graduating at high levels and performing well on state assessments, and the achievement gap has decreased significantly for all student subgroups.

Students are graduating college and career-ready at Worcester Tech, taking AP courses and earning a high school diploma in addition to receiving college credits and an industry credential in some fields. Harrity has been able to leverage partnerships with business and industry and four-year colleges and universities, which help support a full-service restaurant, day spa and salon, 16-bay auto service center, and veterinary clinic at the school.

“Our school’s success and the city’s success are intertwined,” Harrity has stated, noting that students are leaving Worcester Tech with the skills to secure good-paying and rewarding jobs in the community.

Harrity shared her story on Capitol Hill in September 2013 at a hearing to discuss CTE programs and reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Her expertise was instrumental in the development of NASSP’s recommendations to reauthorize the law, which NASSP submitted to the House Education and the Workforce Committee in November. The committee held a second hearing that month and is expected to release draft legislation on the law’s reauthorization sometime this year.

President Obama has also been promoting CTE programs and highlighted the new YouthCareer Connect Grants in his State of the Union address last month. Two hundred and seventy five schools have applied for the grants, which are part of the administration’s high school redesign effort to “challenge high schools and their partners to rethink teaching and learning and put in place learning models that are rigorous, relevant, and better focused on real-world experiences.” Winners will be announced by the Department of Labor this spring.

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