Tech's progress among best in US; Effort, planning saved failing school.


Byline: Linda Bock

WORCESTER - Scores soared during the past several years, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the MetLife Foundation have named Worcester Technical High School one of 10 Breakthrough Schools in the country.

Educators and community and business leaders celebrated the accomplishment yesterday over a breakfast of coffee and fresh pastries - baked by students in the culinary arts program.

The program recognizes schools of all grade levels.

"We are thrilled," said Principal Sheila M. Harrity. "So many dreams were invested in this school. We're one of five high schools, and the only vocational school in the country - which is an incredible honor."

To be recognized as a Breakthrough School, the high school had to demonstrate continuous growth on state assessments over several years and it had to make specific efforts toward reducing the achievement gap. Also, there had to be 40 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. Almost 70 percent of students who attend Worcester Technical High School qualify for free or reduced-priced meals, according to school officials.

Selection was based on student and staff leadership development, school-community connections and student access to rigorous coursework. For example, students at the high school can earn some college credits at no cost through collaborations with local colleges.

The high school, which moved to a new building in 2006, met all of its federal and state improvement targets, which rise annually, from 2006 through 2009. Last spring, it missed many of those targets, butremains in good standing under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"Our graduation rate is 85.7 percent and exceeds the state rate of graduation," Ms. Harrity said. "We've doubled the numbers of honors courses since the school opened, and added four AP (Advanced Placement) courses.

Ms. Harrity said the high school has partnered with two-year and four-year colleges in the area, and high school students can earn college credits by taking dual-credit high school-college courses at the high school.

"The $90 million high school is not just a facility, and the celebration it's not just for our school," Ms. Harrity said. "It's for our city."

Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, state Secretary of Education Paul Reville, state Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, Superintendent Melinda J. Boone, Mayor Joseph C. O'Brien and Edwin "Ted"...

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