Nov 2 Written by: Alisha Hyslop
November 2, 2011 at 9:00 am

This is the second in a series of four posts on using career and technical education (CTE) to turn around low-performing schools.  Click here to read the first post: CTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing Schools.

As focus intensifies on improving the country’s lowest-performing high schools, it is clear that career and technical education (CTE) has a key role to play. One of the biggest benefits of CTE programs is their ability to engage students in learning that is both rigorous and relevant, preparing them for postsecondary education and their future careers. In New Britain, Connecticut, these benefits have been seen firsthand. 2012 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year, Michael Foran, has used CTE as a key component of his efforts to turn around New Britain High School, leading the school to improved graduation rates and stronger academic achievement.

New Britain High School is the largest high school in the state, with over 2,500 students, and is located in a diverse, urban area. Foran became the school’s principal in 2006, and reworked its improvement plan to promote higher student achievement through rigorous and personalized learning. He implemented a number of new strategies, including new data teams, student mentorship and support programs, and efforts to improve staff morale.

CTE programs also played a key role in the turnaround efforts at New Britain. First, Foran worked with local business leaders to determine the skills students would need to be successful in the 21st century. Based on these discussions, New Britain High School leaders updated their graduation requirements to ensure all students graduate college- and career-ready. Through this partnership, areas with significant opportunities for employment were also identified. This led to the realization that the school needed to focus more on career education, which led to several new CTE programs.

One of the school’s biggest accomplishments in this area has been the opening of a new Academy for Health Professions, which is a collaborative effort between the school, city, and the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Hospital for Special Care. The academy, launched in 2010, helps to increase opportunities for students to pursue careers in healthcare through opportunities to earn certifications and build postsecondary and workforce connections. It currently serves over 200 students and will be fully implemented next school year. In speaking about the importance of this initiative to all students, Foran says, “The academy has something for a student who wants a job right out of high school that does not require a lot of additional schooling to students who want to be doctors and everyone in between.”[i]

In addition to the health professions academy, additional career preparation is offered through a range of CTE courses, including JROTC, business and accounting courses, culinary arts, and a STEM academy. NASSP executive director, JoAnn Bartoletti, emphasized these choice options when announcing Foran’s principal of the year award. “Under Michael Foran’s leadership, New Britain has become a model of rigorous, personalized learning and a turnaround success story.”

Read the next posts in the series: CTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing Schools: Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, Texas and CTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing Schools: Covington, KY.

Guest Author: Alisha Hyslop is the Assistant Director of Public Policy at the Association for Career and Technical Education and is the author of the upcoming ACTE Issue Brief titled “CTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing Schools.”

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