NJDOE News

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 administration’s 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 McGreevey’s 21-point education reform plan, as well as the State Board of Education’s Strategic Plan.

  • 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 practices/programs; and
-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 administration’s list of educational priorities.

  • 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 student’s 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 project.

  • Another Governor’s initiative with which High Schools That Work is a very compatible program is the new award program called Governor’s 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 Governor’s 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.