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Conference on High Schools that Work
Commissioner William L. Librera
May 22, 2003
- Greetings Dr. Butcher, Dr. Bottoms, Dr. Sharp, and invited guests.
I am excited to be able to join you for the conference on High Schools
That Work (HSTW) because diverse paths to student success are very high
on the McGreevey administrations education agenda, and this is
a very well-established program for career-bound students.
- Actions of the Department of Education have been guided by some basic
assumptions that will continue to influence our education agenda as
we develop it. These assumptions include the belief that all children
can learn if taught well, and that there must be high expectations,
as well as multiple and diverse opportunities for children to meet the
standards. We also believe that research and analysis must be applied
to teaching and learning effectiveness, and standards and outcomes must
be held constant while we apply strategies and techniques in different
ways. High Schools That Work provide an excellent avenue to graduation
and careers for increasing numbers of our high school students, and
the program requirements satisfy all of our basic assumptions.
- It is within these guiding principles and assumptions that we have
proceeded as we carry out Governor James McGreeveys 21-point education
reform plan, as well as the State Board of Educations Strategic
- All of the critical issues in education fit within five themes that
Governor McGreevey and I have identified --
-Teacher and administrator quality;
-Raising student achievement;
-Diverse and multiple paths for student success;-Innovative and outstanding
-Public engagement and communication and public accountability.
- The department has been working extensively with educators and business
leaders on ways to create diverse and multiple paths to student success.
We must all begin to release education from the restrictions of the
past and begin to find new paths to student success.
- The department recently hosted regional meetings on its 12th-Grade
Pilot Program designed to encourage high school seniors who have finished
all graduation requirements to enroll in college-credit courses or seek
volunteer opportunities, among other experiences, for both personal
and intellectual growth. The 12th-Grade Pilot Program is
an initiative high on the McGreevey administrations list of educational
- The pilot program encourages districts to offer high school seniors
a variety of out-of-school options, such as online courses and community
service work. There are 85 schools participating and some of you who
are present today are part of the pilot group. At the end of the month,
we will sponsor an event to launch this exciting program that will hopefully
open up new educational possibilities for our seniors. The concepts
involved in the senior year initiative are very compatible with High
Schools That Work.
- I will mention some of the similarities between HSTW and the 12th-grade
pilot project because these should be complementary programs and not
competing ones. Both programs offer the opportunity for placing students
in work-based learning experiences and letting parents and students
chose the ones for participation.
- Both HSTW and the pilot program focus on making the senior year in
high school meaningful as preparation for the next step in a students
education or career. Both programs encourage school leaders to work
with postsecondary institutions, develop work-based learning activities,
and participate in Web-based technical courses and programs of study
at postsecondary institutions. Both are designed to develop leadership.
- Process is very important in creating programs such as HSTW or senior-year
options that allow students to meet the requirements to graduate. The
process that schools must follow to prepare to be a High School That
Works (HSTW) is very beneficial from many aspects. The process forces
a school to define its vision within the framework of the HSTW, and
set clear goals aimed at improving student achievement. It also requires
everyone to work together to align policies, resources, initiatives,
and accountability measures in order to craft a successful program.
- Another critical component for program success is to provide high-quality
professional development for teachers and school leaders.
- As you hear about successful programs today from the practitioners
who have created them, pay special attention to the process that each
of them used because that is where the commitment to building a lasting
program occurs. Ultimately, the students will have to be tested for
accountability purposes both for adjustment of program design and to
satisfy the requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act.
- There has been much debate over reliance on standardized tests as
a sole measure of what a student has learned. In recognition of the
limits of standardized paper-and-pencil tests, especially as they are
applied to hands-on, experience-based programs, the department is part
of a partnership with business and industry to create alternate assessments.
- We have jointly announced nine pilot districts to participate in a
program funded by a targeted grant to the Coalition for Responsible
Educational Assessment, Testing and Evaluation (CREATE) and the Business
Coalition for Educational Excellence (BCEE) consortium in the amount
of $750,000, to be supplemented by $100 thousand from the Business Coalition
and $400 thousand of in-kind support from CREATE member organizations.
The grant is for a pilot project to create performance-based tests to
be used in conjunction with standardized tests. We announced the nine
pilot districts at the April State Board meeting. We have selected Willa
Spicer from South Brunswick, a recognized expert, to head the pilot
- Another Governors initiative with which High Schools That Work
is a very compatible program is the new award program called Governors
Schools of Excellence. If we are to motivate schools and school personnel
to really invest their total talents and resources into teaching our
students more effectively, we must reward success. Another important
element in our reform plan is to create rewards for innovative and outstanding
practices and programs.
- The department announced this May the criteria for the Governors
Schools of Excellence that will provide awards of $25,000 each to schools
that demonstrate significant improvement in a two-year period. The funds
can be used for educational purposes to be decided by the school. The
school will report to the Commissioner at the end of the school year
on how it used the award, and it will serve as a demonstration center
for exemplary programs. A school can win once in three years.
- Pepco/Conective, formerly Atlantic City Electric Company, and First
Energy Corporations, formerly Jersey Central Power & Light Co. donated
$1 million each for the three-year program.
- The criteria include demonstration of academic achievement by significant
improvement in state test scores, standardized test scores, and other
relevant measures of achievement, as well as evidence in at least five
of the following aspects:
- outstanding growth in literacy measures
as evidenced by test scores;
- meaningful improvement in parent
involvement in school matters in both quality and quantity;
- improvement in student attendance,
graduation rate, and dropout reduction;
- reduction in statistics on violence
and vandalism incidents;
- creative involvement with partnerships
and/or the community;
- creative and increased use of technology
as a tool for learning;
- demonstrated improvement in quality
in professional development; and
- demonstrated success in providing
better learning opportunities for specialized populations such as
special education and second language learners.
- If we are to reward success for programs that provide diverse routes
to student achievement, then we must broaden our measures of success
and not rely solely on standardized test scores. Many of the measures
in the criteria are already being met through the key practices of High
Schools That Work.
- High Schools That Work fit perfectly into all of our efforts in the
area of combining rigorous academic standards with programs that prepare
students for modern careers and challenging technical studies. The 60
to 65 percent of the students who are career-bound after high school
will profit from programs that demand excellence and high achievement
in courses geared to meet their needs. The same concepts govern our
career academies and vocational academies.
- In the last year, the administration has launched four different career
academy programs operating where they did not exist before. These began
with the partnership of Pfizer and Morris School District with a $500,000
commitment from Pfizer to build a career exploration laboratory for
a medical/health program that will ultimately benefit all students at
Morristown High School. The second was PSE&G that became a partner
with the Trenton School District and Mercer County Community College
to develop an engineering program. The third was Commerce Bank partnering
with Cherry Hill School District, Drexel University, Rutgers University,
and Camden County Community College to develop the Cherry Hill Academy
for Studies and Experiences.
- One of the overarching issues that the department is concerned about
is the articulation of instruction from pre-K through grades 12, 14,
16, or even 20. Our students will be served best if we can reduce redundancy
and repetition in our education levels and truly build on the skills
and knowledge with each year of education. Our newly revised standards
are much more specific than the first set adopted in 1996. That articulation
can be extended beyond K-12, especially in programs built on the principles
of High Schools That Work.
- To advance this K-20 concept, we recently announced plans for an Entrepreneurship/
Business Management Academy with Camden County College, Rutgers University,
and six Camden High Schools participating. The academy is the first
seamless pre-kindergarten through senior year of college initiative
in the state of New Jersey, and it is a model program for the 12th-grade
pilot program and senior year initiative.
- The department also has assisted the Englewood School District with
its academies at Englewood that include programs in information systems,
law and public safety, finance, and pre-engineering with performing
arts and teaching to follow. If successful, these programs will be the
solution to a desegregation order to the district that has produced
over thirty years of litigation.
- In addition, we are prepared to initiate seven "renaissance schools"
as a pilot program. These will be small schools designed to improve
learning, as well as improve the surrounding neighborhoods. These will
be pilot projects and we will observe the effects of these schools on
urban development, as well as on academic success. The first was launched
in Trenton earlier this year and the second in Neptune this spring.
- The goal in all of these diverse paths to student success is to keep
students in school, motivate them with high expectations and rewards
for achievement, and provide them with programs that are relevant to
their future pursuits.
- Assessments of the HSTW program show that students who complete the
HSTW-recommended academic core with a career concentration have average
reading, math, and science scores equal to or exceeding those of college-prep
students; continue their studies after high school at a higher rate
than others; and have a higher grade point average in college with a
higher likelihood of staying past the freshman year.
- Statistics show that high school students who complete a concentration
of three or four credits in a career/technical field of study have better
employment and earnings outcomes than students who complete fewer than
two credits in a single career/technical field.
- In terms of benefits to the school and community, high-risk students
are eight to 10 times less likely to drop out in the 11th
and 12th grade if they enroll in a career/technical program
rather than a general program.
- We have plans for many more initiatives in these five critical areas
as the year progresses, as well as for working toward full implementation
of the many we have already launched. I look forward to many more opportunities
to work with your organizations and districts as we develop programs
to provide the finest possible education for all of our students.