WASHINGTON – Maryland has never before had a finalist in the national competition for a New American High School but this year it has two that appear at first glance to be vastly different.
But a closer look shows one strong similarity between Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore County and Eleanor Roosevelt High School, a science and tech magnet school in Prince George’s County – both push their students to get some real-world experience in the careers of their choice.
“We have students out there in the real world to give them a flavor of what life will be like,” said Eleanor Roosevelt High Principal Gerald Boarman. “We’re trying to give them a perspective of career to work opportunities.”
The two schools are among 16 finalists for the national award, which recognizes schools that use innovative techniques to make sure every student is academically successful.
The U.S. Department of Education initiative has recognized 17 schools across the country since it began in 1996. Schools wishing to compete must fill out an extensive application and respond to questions about the availability of internships, technology integration and partnerships with the community, said Gail Schwartz, director of the New American High School Initiative.
“Each school is asked how they implement these strategies and how their outcomes such as test scores have improved,” Schwartz said.
Teams visited all 16 finalists in September and October and ranked them on a standard point system. All the schools that receive more than a certain number of points will win the New American High School designation. Winners get a small stipend and principals can attend leadership seminars.
Previous winners have included various types of high schools and Maryland’s finalists cover the spectrum: One school trains students for blue- collar jobs while the other provides internships for white-collar careers.
But both schools have a variety of programs for different interests. And like many of the previous winners, Maryland’s nominees have integrated technology, service learning and a career-oriented curriculum.
Boarman said Roosevelt, with 3,350 students, has eight “Academy Programs,” each of which offer a variety of career-related courses as well as internships in their field of study. Students choose career majors and minors. Many of the career majors give students opportunity to intern the their field of interest.
Students can take high school classes in architecture or engineering and they can intern with judges or work in a National Aeronautics and Space Administration lab. An in-school program for hearing-impaired children allows them to learn sign language while others can learn about education by teaching at a nursery school at Roosevelt.
Eastern Technical High School is a magnet technical school in Essex, offering its 1,382 students a choice of 10 career majors, including allied health, business administration and computer drafting. Students must apply to the school, and if selected are given an individual career action plan, listing the courses they are required to take for each year.
Eastern Principal Robert Kemmery said the courses are designed to answer the student’s question, “How will this help me in the real world?” Instead of simply learning about academic theories, he said, students can learn about how these theories apply to their career majors.
“It gives more significance to the rationale of taking courses and focuses the attention of academic programs with relevance,” Kemmery said. He said the school helps bolster that experience by hiring faculty with private-sector expertise.
Boarman said he wants to make sure that every student has the opportunity to explore career options during high school.
“When you go to high school and take courses they should have meaning and relate to what you want to do,” he said.
The finalists were announced Sept. 15 by Education Secretary Richard Riley and the winners are scheduled to be announced Nov. 18.