National High School Principal of the Year Shares CTE Success Stories

Since Congress seems to have hit a brick wall on ESEA reauthorization, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has decided to focus on a new project: reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. The subcommittee overseeing elementary and secondary education held its first hearing on Perkins and CTE programs on September 21, and NASSP was very pleased to be represented by the 2014 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year, Dr. Sheila Harrity, who is the principal of Worcester (MA) Technical High School.

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,” she stated, noting that students are leaving Worcester Tech with the skills to secure good-paying and rewarding jobs in the community.

In his opening remarks at the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) outlined the status of Perkins reauthorization, stating that Congress will need to assess the federal role in career and technical education, ensure CTE programs are effective, and help states recruit and retain educators with valuable knowledge and experience. “As we work to rebuild our economy after the recent recession, strengthening career and technical education programs will help put more Americans on the path to a prosperous future,” he said.

Delving more into the policy issues, Vermont Deputy Commissioner and President of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium John Fischer spoke about vital importance of a federal investment in CTE, which continues to be a “major driver of change and innovation in CTE.” He explained that all states had agreed to a common vision for CTE that includes five principles:

  • CTE is critical to ensuring that the United States leads in global competitiveness;
  • CTE actively partners with employers to design and provide high-quality dynamic programs;
  • CTE prepares students to succeed in further education and careers;
  • CTE is delivered through comprehensive programs of study aligned to the National Career Clusters Framework; and
  • CTE is a results-driven system that demonstrates a positive return on investment.

Fischer said that the 2006 law encouraged states to strengthen the integration of high-quality academic and technical education programs, emphasizing that students participating in CTE programs be held to the same academic standards as all other students. He further noted that CTE students are out-performing their peers on academic benchmarks and they are graduating at a national average of more than 90%. “Our nation’s economic vitality hinges on our commitment to invest in and ensure the preparedness, efficiency, innovation, creativity and productivity of the U.S. workforce, and CTE is instrumental to our success,” he concluded.

The committee wants to move quickly on a bipartisan reauthorization of Perkins this year, and future hearings will likely examine the Obama administration’s blueprint that was released in April 2012.

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