For the first time in its history, Franklin County Technical School is offering advanced college placement classes that will enhance the school’s academic rigor and prepare students for higher education.
Introduced this school year, juniors and seniors can now enroll in AP English language and composition, AP statistics in the mathematics department, and AP programming and Web design in computer science, a vocational shop. FCTS Superintendent Richard J. Martin said inclusion of AP classes had been of interest for the last few years.
“We noticed over the last four or five years there was an increasing amount of parents and students inquiring of Franklin County Technical School to offer honors and advanced placement courses,” he said. “School committee member Mark Maloney also approached the school’s administration with the idea of implementing increased academic rigor by offering advanced placement courses.”
As a result, Martin, who was FCTS principal at the time, began to consult with other vocational/technical schools that have implemented advanced placement classes, including Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School, Bay Path Regional Vocational School, Worcester Technical High School, Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, and others.
“These school districts have similar student profiles and have had success with AP programs,” Martin said. “I felt we could do the same here.”
Franklin County Technical School was also urged by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and New England Association of Schools and Colleges to increase academic rigor.
The state has a $2.4 million budget line item to expand advanced placement courses. Martin used some of that money to hire Mass Insight Education, a nonprofit that has worked with 130 schools in Massachusetts to assist FCTS in introducing advanced placement classes by training teachers, developing and implementing courses.
“Through Mass Insight, we had a half dozen teachers attend a week-long training at Bridgewater State University to prepare for the 2015-2016 school year,” Martin said.
FCTS sees a number of benefits to implementing the AP courses. Students who take the courses will have more opportunity upon graduation to choose between entering the workforce or attend college. Students that pass the AP exam with a score of 3 or better on a scale from 1-5 can receive college credit. Attracting higher academic students will increase enrollment and scores in the computer science advanced placement courses in future years.
Also, advanced CNC, computer programming, HTML coding and other high skill vocational programs naturally attract students with strong academic skills. As a result, students that come to FCTS because of the AP classes will also increase the quality of students in high end vocational shops.
“We want to prepare our students for 21st century skills and college and to be career-ready,” Martin said. ‘We’ve always done well with career-readiness, and we’re making significant strides in the college preparation portion of that statement. The goal of offering AP classes is to help students understand the academic rigor they’ll face at the next level. About 50 percent of our students go onto higher education. It’s necessary to help them understand what’s expected of them.”