Congratulations on your efforts to investigate all of the options for your son or daughter’s high school education. I am glad to have the opportunity to introduce you to our academic offerings and to explain some of the benefits of a Minuteman education. Among many other strong points, we have a consistent track record of near 100% first-time pass rates on all MCAS tests. On the SAT, our students score at or near the top of all Massachusetts career and technical high schools. Recently, we have broadened our offerings to include Advanced Placement courses in English, Calculus, Computer Programming, and Studio Art: 2-D Design. Our graduates are college ready as typically, nearly 60% of them attend two or four-year schools.
We are proud of the work we do, and the success of our graduates continues to reinforce the value of career and technical education and the choices it makes available to those who pursuit it. A recent poll recognized Minuteman’s achievements: http://www.golocalworcester.com/news/chart-massachusetts-top-high-schools-2013-from-1-to-345/
Minuteman provides a course of study consistent with our mission to prepare students to become productive members of a global community. Our goal is to ensure student success in the workforce, post-secondary studies at two or four-year institutions, as well as in the military. Essentially, we will endeavor to teach your children as much as they can possibly learn.
The course work also reflects the expectations of 21st century life outside of school, and it promotes learning for real-world situations, both predictable and unpredictable. It is the charge of all faculty members to teach our students the application of skills gained in the classroom. At its best, that application of skills effects an integration of academic and vocational-technical skills. That integration is reinforced when students listen, speak, read, write, conduct research, work in teams, share ideas, and demonstrate professional ethics, good manners, and acceptable human interrelations.
Our curriculum models are determined by and aligned with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Academic and Career/Technical Frameworks. The Common Core State Standards are addressed, and we are working to prepare for the soon-to-be-implemented assessments designed by the Partnership for Assessing College and Career Readiness (PARCC). Again, our courses are not simply about covering material; they emphasize the development of skills.
Minuteman academic departments comprise: English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, World Languages (Spanish, Latin, French), Music, and Fine Arts. The academic program of study features core and elective courses at four levels: Advanced Placement, College Prep 1 (Honors), College Prep 2, and College Prep 3. Students enrolled in AP and College Prep 1-2 courses are expected to meet rigorous expectations because they have consistently scored at their reading and math levels or above. College Prep 3 courses feature additional support and some remediation.
Our co-teaching model continues to expand to assist students in their academic courses and their career and technical majors. Students are not locked into class levels. Movement into more rigorous course offerings is the norm for many students during their four years at Minuteman.
Students’ learning preferences affect the development of our instructional materials. Teachers survey students at the beginning of the year to determine the kinds of activities they favor and the ones likely to result in success. Our teacher mentoring program introduces all new teachers to the principles of brain-compatible teaching, and mentors observe new teachers as they apply the techniques in their respective classes. Formative assessments are in place across all departments, and they point to areas of need or learning differences for which the instruction is then adjusted.
In response to the clearly identified needs of all Minuteman students, we continue to bolster several school-wide initiatives. These include: reading consultancies across all disciplines, the Collins Writing Program, and Executive Functioning Strategies.
Our school employs a full-time reading specialist and coach who works with all departments to enhance teachers’ abilities to address their students’ reading fluency and comprehension as well as vocabulary development. Data are gathered each year to inform curriculum improvements.
All academic and vocational staff work toward the consistent use of the John Collins Writing System, by which teachers to develop Focus Correction Areas (FCA’s) that directly affect the quality of student writing by placing more and more responsibility on the students to check their work prior to submission. Portfolios are used to document real-life learning. Process folios are used in most academic and vocational disciplines to document students’ daily progress and to assist students to reflect and assess their own work.
Executive Function (EF) as explained by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare in their book Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention (The Guilford Practical Intervention in Schools Series), "Executive skills allow us to organize our behavior over time and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. Through our use of these skills we can plan and organize activities, sustain attention, and persist to complete a task. Executive skills enable us to manage our emotions and monitor our thoughts in order to work more efficiently and effectively. Simply stated, these skills help us to regulate our behavior."
One of the hallmarks of our EF program is the distribution of binders to all freshmen. Throughout the year, teachers assist students in the use of the binder to organize their time, materials, and information.
For more information about the successful of the network of Regional Vocational Technical Schools across Massachusetts, see: Pathways to Prosperity, a 2011 report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education (p. 27). http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news_events/features/2011/Pathways_to_Prosperity_Feb2011.pdf
For still more information about technical high schools in Massachusetts and our success teaching 21st century skills, see: the Pioneer Institute report: “Vocational-Technical Education in Massachusetts” http://pioneerinstitute.org/download/vocational-technical-education-in-massachusetts/
Thanks, again, for your interest in Minuteman High School. Please accept this invitation to visit our school to see first-hand what we have to offer.
William J. Blake, Jr.
Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment