Academic journal article High School Journal

The Marriage of Rigorous Academics and Technical Instruction with State-of-the-Art Technology: A Success Story of the William T. McFatter Technical High School

Academic journal article High School Journal

The Marriage of Rigorous Academics and Technical Instruction with State-of-the-Art Technology: A Success Story of the William T. McFatter Technical High School

Article excerpt

The search for high school reform leads to William T. McFatter Technical High School in Broward County Public Schools, Florida. The purpose of this article is to highlight key information about the school and to demonstrate the success of its rigorous academic and technical instruction with state-of-the-art technology. By sharing this information, districts across the nation can replicate a program that ensures high school completion while readying students for college education, postsecondary technical study and mid- and high-level employment.

Designed as a school of choice, McFatter provides ah educational experience unlike the majority of high schools across both the district and the state. The article will present the background on the school's development and highlight its current program design. Longitudinal student achievement indicators will be provided to demonstrate program success in enabling students to reach high levels of learning. Data includes standardized assessment results and dropout/completion rates that compare its students with those across Broward, Florida and the Nation. Recognition by national, state and corporate entities is highlighted to support the statement that McFatter is meeting the challenge of high school reform. This high school serves as a successful program for our new millennium.

Introduction

The call for school reform is the result of a demand to redesign education to meet today's student needs. In Creating a New Vision of the Urban High School, Joyce Baldwin (2000) speaks of transforming our high schools into smaller schools with academic rigor. This rigor is tied to both high school and technical education requirements in order to reach a broader goal of college ready and job ready graduates (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2002).

The question of how to reform secondary education and ensure high rigor, in part, can be answered by the use of technology. Collins In Good to Great (2001) stresses that technology serves as an accelerator of momentum. But, it is not implementation of any technology that moves an organization forward, but it is the application of carefully selected technology that is associated with the transformation from good to great. Furthermore, he states that it is the combination of various technological applications that has a significant impact, much larger than if one approach is applied alone.

Merging lessons learned from Baldwin (2000), Alliance for Excellent Education (2002), and Collins (2001) suggest that smaller schools--perhaps schools within schools--with academic rigor and the right combination of technology can move reform efforts forward. Focus on graduates, who are well prepared for postsecondary study and employment, as well as, who have a strong foundation in technology is a broader goal of high school education.

Broward County Public Schools, enrolling nearly 280,000 Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 students in 2003-04, embraces systemic reform as a vehicle to increase student learning and to prepare students for success beyond high school. Based on longitudinal achievement data and recognitions of success, a significant step for secondary reform is underway at William T. McFatter High School (hereafter referred to as McFatter. The school offers a four-year course of study that delivers both high rigor academic and technical instruction to high school students and infuses technology into various aspects of program operation.

McFatter is a school of choice and is part of a technical center serving both secondary and adult students. Instructional delivery emphasizes the use of technology that affords students access to virtual coursework, electronic textbooks, digital portfolios, and video-conferencing. McFatter's graduates are eligible to earn not only a high school diploma and acquire certification in one of over 20 technical fields, but also may acquire college credit leading to an Associates degree. …

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