High Schools That Work

High Schools That Work is an effort-based school improvement initiative founded on the conviction that most students can master rigorous academic and career/technical studies if school leaders and teachers create an environment that motivates students to make the effort to succeed.

The Southern Regional Education Board's Commission for Educational Quality passed a set of 10 recommendations in 1985 that encouraged states to make career/technical education a full partner in efforts to improve student achievement. The commission's work led to the founding of High Schools That Work, and later, Making Middle Grades Work, which today help schools in more than half of the nation's states. HSTW and MMGW built on the commission's findings, which stress academic rigor, helping students see relevance in their schoolwork, providing students with caring personal relationships from adult mentors, helping students understand their responsibility to take charge of their own learning, and helping teachers understand their responsibility for implementing engaging classroom instruction. These practices can help improve student achievement for all groups of students. Recent research validates the commission's vision for combining rigorous academics with career/technical skills—resulting in improved student achievement for all groups.

Goals and Key Conditions

  • 85 percent of students meet HSTW reading, mathematics and science performance goals in a NAEP-referenced HSTW Assessment
  • 85 percent of graduates complete the HSTW-recommended academic core and a concentration in an academic and/or career/technical area
  • 90% of high school students enter grade nine and complete high school in four years

Key Practices

HSTW has identified a set of Key Practices that impact student achievement. Following are the HSTW Key Practices that provide direction and meaning to comprehensive school improvement and student learning:

  1. High expectations — Motivate more students to meet high expectations by integrating high expectations into classroom practices and giving students frequent feedback.
  2. Program of study — Require each student to complete an upgraded academic core and a concentration.
  3. Academic studies — Teach more students the essential concepts of the college-preparatory curriculum by encouraging them to apply academic content and skills to real—world problems and projects.
  4. Career/technical studies — Provide more students access to intellectually challenging career/technical studies in high-demand fields that emphasize the higher-level mathematics, science, literacy and problem-solving skills needed in the workplace and in further education.
  5. Work—based learning — Enable students and their parents to choose from programs that integrate challenging high school studies and work-based learning and are planned by educators, employers and students.
  6. Teachers working together — Provide teams of teachers from several disciplines the time and support to work together to help students succeed in challenging academic and career/technical studies. Integrate reading, writing and speaking as strategies for learning into all parts of the curriculum and integrate mathematics into science and career/technical classrooms.
  7. Students actively engaged — Engage students in academic and career/technical classrooms in rigorous and challenging proficient-level assignments using research—based instructional strategies and technology.
  8. Guidance — Involve students and their parents in a guidance and advisement system that develops positive relationships and ensures completion of an accelerated program of study with an academic or career/technical concentration. Provide each student with the same mentor throughout high school to assist with setting goals, selecting courses, reviewing the student's progress and suggesting appropriate interventions as necessary.
  9. Extra help — Provide a structured system of extra help to assist students in completing accelerated programs of study with high-level academic and technical content.
  10. Culture of continuous improvement — Use student assessment and program evaluation data to continuously improve school culture, organization, management, curriculum and instruction to advance student learning.

Technical Assistance Visits

District System School TAV Scheduled
ET Oak Ridge Oak Ridge HS  
ET Campbell Co Campbell Co HS  
UC York Special District Alvin C. York Institute  
MC Rutherford Blackman HS  
TRV (1/2 day visit or 2 Hour Conference Call)
District System School TAV Scheduled
MC Williamson Co Page HS  
SW McNairy Co Adamsville HS  
SW McNairy Co. Dresden HS  

Additional Information

Last Update: July 18, 2014