In eight years, Worcester Technical High School has gone from an underperforming school in Massachusetts to a national model for career and technical education.
Reinvigorating the honors curriculum and setting up an accountability plan for faculty and students led to concrete results, Sheila Harrity, the principal who implemented the successful turnaround of the 104-year-old institution, told Providence Business News last week.
It’s a track record Rhode Island wants to emulate.
In late January, state Senate leaders presented an action plan, some of it to be accompanied by legislation, to help close the skills gap for Rhode Island youth and the unemployed.
One bill being drafted by Sen. Roger Picard, D-Woonsocket, a Woonsocket educator, would deploy $1 million in state funding while using Worcester as a model to redesign career and technical education in Rhode Island. The bill also would require the R.I. Department of Education to align decisions about how to allocate limited resources with the state’s workforce priorities and integrate state-of-the-art programming with professional development.
Using the $1 million as incentive through the fall of 2015, lawmakers are requesting that the Department of Education invite Rhode Island’s public schools to compete by developing a best-practice model for career and technical education. If adopted by lawmakers, this model would serve as a pilot program in 2016 and if successful, would be fully implemented statewide in 2017, Picard said.
“The key for us is the partnership between the business community and the educational system to address the skills gap that we have,” Picard said.
Luke Driver, district director of the Providence Career and Technical Academy, called the legislative developments “awesome.”
“We are little kids playing in a sandbox compared to Worcester,” Driver said. “We are just getting started. Worcester has the benefit of decades of very strong post-secondary industry partnerships,” he said.
“Worcester Technical High School graduates are graduating college and career ready,” Harrity recently told the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which named her principal of the year this past fall. “The profile of the 2013 graduates is: 82 percent went on to higher education, 13 percent went directly into the world of work, and 2 percent joined the military.”