OUR PRIORITIES | MADISON PARK TECHNICAL VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
MADISON PARK TECHNICAL VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School must become a regional hub of excellence, leveraging business and community partnerships to finally realize the potential of the educational gem in the heart of Roxbury. John believes that Madison Park High School is a vitally important resource for Boston’s youth and adults, and for the long term strength of our workforce and economy. It’s time that we significantly increase our investment in Madison Park, and give it the kind focus and attention it deserves in order to fully realize its potential.
Madison Park is the only vocational school in the city of Boston. There have been many efforts to bring it up to par with the vocational high schools in surrounding towns. From the school’s inception in 1975, racial biases plagued efforts to resource it fully. Some members of the Boston City Council at the time objected to investing fully in Madison Park, because of its location in Roxbury. Decades later, this one-of-a-kind institution is still in need of appropriate financial resources, and aligned partnerships to realize its full potential for students, families, and the surrounding Roxbury community.
Myths About Vocational Schools
Vocational (or Career Technical) education was once a staple in schools, where students had access to trade skills courses alongside their other content classes. Efforts to “track” students changed this and gave vocational education a negative name. Tracking put students that were deemed high achieving academically in college preparation courses and placed those viewed as lower achieving in vocational classes.
In actuality, vocational classes aren’t easier than college preparation classes. Students still need to have strong literacy, math, and science knowledge to be successful in vocational education. Vocational education is a different way of educating students using hands-on learning, which research shows helps students better master content and skills. Additionally, vocational education gives students exposure to possible career options early in life, and can create a pathway to successful employment right out of high school.
Vocational education doesn’t lock students into one type of career for life. While vocational education gives exposure to one type of career early on, it doesn’t prevent students from exploring other options. Research shows that most people in vocational industries continue to further their education. Recently, there has been a boom in trade industries but not enough people are equipped to fill these vacancies, so there is a great need for vocational education today. Moreover, many industries at the leading edges of the economy - in cybersecurity, bioengineering, life sciences and green jobs - are building talent pipelines through vocational programming as the definitions of technical careers expand.
About Madison Park Technical Vocational High School
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School is the only high school whose programming is dedicated exclusively to career training in the City of Boston. Madison Park provides interactive learning in over 20 vocations. During students’ upperclassmen years, those with consistent attendance go off-site for experiential learning in their vocation. At graduation, students who have completed their coursework earn a diploma and certification in their vocation, making it possible to go straight to work or to pursue college degrees. Some students even graduate Madison Park High School with credits earned toward their associates degree through the Rox Map Early College program and through the ASAP program with Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School has relationships with trade unions such as the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103. It also partners with Whittier Street Health Center, Beaver Works, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Mass Insight, General Air HVAC, Boston Medical Center, and more. The school is also now a part of the Career Champions Network (CCN) made up of academics, activists, unions, philanthropists, business leaders, and school administrators.
Though Madison Park High School has made many strides, much work needs to be done so that students achieve academic and career success in the high paying trade industries.
PRIORITY 1: Create an Independent Budget and School Board
Currently, having Madison Park under the same financial and organizational structure as other Boston Public Schools creates efficiencies and economic savings. However, it does not allow the level of specific attention that is needed to maximize the full potential of Boston’s only Technical Vocational School. In order to give Madison Park the kind of focus and capacity it needs to address its unique mission and the ever changing dynamic of the workforce, the school should be given a separate budget and school board.
The successful Career/Vocational Schools in Massachusetts have both the autonomy and the responsibility to design their schools to best meet their student needs. Transparency in an independent budget would allow parents and partners to better understand and support the special programs at Madison Park. More school based control of its own budget will allow school leaders to make resource decisions related outcomes and improve their ability to fundraise.
The 20 vocational programs at Madison Park are regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' General Law (M.G.L.) Chapter 74. Chapter 74 requires a Program Advisory Board (PAB) over each program it controls. The PAB should all be coordinated by a single school board for Madison Park that allows for greater coordination and increases decision making authority of the PAB and those closer to the programs and with greater focus on outcomes.
PRIORITY 2: Stable & Consistent Leadership
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School has also suffered from almost constant change in leadership having 8 headmasters in the last 8 years. Having a stable leader is crucial to the success of any school. Not much can improve if a headmaster only has a year to prove themselves. The state’s Turnaround school process is 3 years as it takes at least that long to see the impact of changes that have been implemented. The constant changes in leadership also lower staff morale. When staff feel that the school leader won’t be around for long, it lessens confidence that a new leader can actually enact change and can lead to resistance.
Madison Park needs a strong leader in place for at least three years in a row to rebuild school culture and success. John will work with the headmaster to ensure longevity of school leadership. John will also push for more school staff involvement in major decision-making processes that will impact the school.
PRIORITY 3: Modernize Madison Park High School’s Vocational Programs for the Future of Work
Madison Park’s program offerings do not fully align with what we know about the future of promising trade industries. We want to fill in those gaps to create holistic trade programs at Madison Park. For example, including a barber component to the Cosmetology pathway and highlighting coding in the Web Design and Computer Programming pathway would improve the depth of understanding and quality of education that students receive in these areas. Some pathways such as metal fabrication - which few students choose - may need to be replaced with an expansion of HVAC, electrician, and other lucrative high interest technical vocational options.
In order to accomplish this Madison Park High School needs to attract active and sustainable partners. Potential partners need to be assured that their efforts will be fruitful, and existing partners need to be given actionable ways that they can engage with the school in order to maintain their interest.
Effective partnerships with the leadership and staff at Madison Park needs to be supported. For example, in 2019, business, community, and civic leaders came together to form the Career Champions Network (CCN), now consisting of more than 30 individuals committed to supporting Madison Park. The CCN has been a strong and effective partner to Madison Park. CCN said they are working with Madison Park TVHS to develop the Madison Park Technical Institute (MPTI), an adult education program designed to provide hands-on training. MPTI will offer:
1. After-school, evening, and weekend certification and apprentice programs
Industries of focus include: Digital Economy (IT and Programming); Construction (including clean energy economy, i.e., solar, welding, HVAC, facilities mgt)
Advanced Manufacturing Technology
Prioritize residents who lost employment due to the pandemic, those re-tooling and upskilling, and returning citizens
In addition to diversifying the vocational offerings, it’s also vital to include high interest elective classes. This will further engage students to multiple forms of learning, deepen their interest in education, and give students more autonomy over what they are learning.
PRIORITY 4: Madison Park to be the School that Produces the Most College Credits and Industry Certifications in Boston Upon Graduation
Madison Park High School’s Early College program creates the opportunity for students to graduate with a high school diploma, technical vocational certificate, and potentially even an associates degree, unfortunately this rarely happens. Structural changes including providing a student guide to graduation and beyond, an accompanying advisory class dedicated to students matriculation, and clearly established staff teams that are responsible for various student outcomes.
With a serious need for more machinists, auto mechanics, welders, HVAC, IT and health aides, we need to leverage relationships with local businesses to create a seamless pipeline from graduation to guaranteed employment. We need partners to not only be at the table but also commit to employing our freshly trained students. The implementation of employment counselors is vital in ensuring that students have employment contracts by the time they graduate.
PRIORITY 5: Open Up Discussions About MCAS Alternatives to Improve Graduation Rates
Currently, the only exemption from MCAS exists for students with IEPs. These students are able to compile a portfolio of work that demonstrates their skills instead of taking the days-long standardized test. Students that choose to attend Madison Park for hands-on learning may disengage from standardized test preparation. Since an option for portfolios already exists, it’s worth discussing extending the portfolio option to technical vocational students.
PRIORITY 6: Rebranding Madison Park High School to Attract Students, Families, and Staff
Like many Boston Public Schools, Madison’s struggles are often publicized in the media instead of its achievements being highlighted. The early college program, vocation certifications, and academic improvements, particularly the 12% increase in the graduation rate and increased enrollment from 841 to 1043, should be publicly recognized in order to change the negative narrative that many students, families, and even BPS personnel have of the school.
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School needs a marketing push that will spotlight its strengths and showcase the strides the school has made in recent years. The use of social media, banners, and newspaper interviews, can shed a brighter light on a school that has taken many steps forward. Successful alumni of the school can also be ambassadors and share the opportunities they have been afforded by attending Madison Park High School.
Clearer marketing to middle school students and families can peak the interest in what Madison Park High School has to offer. Many families and students don’t actually recognize that Madison Park is a technical vocational high school creating issues once students enter. Having an application or portfolio process for entering students can make sure their interests are aligned with what the school offers. Introducing 8th grade students to the concept of Technical Vocational education in 8th grade can help them fully understand the program and make informed decisions about whether it’s the appropriate educational option for them.
The recruitment of quality educators is essential to the success of Madison Park High School. As technical vocational education curriculum isn’t any easier than traditional learning, it still requires rigorous reading, writing, math, and science instruction. We need to recruit even more highly qualified educators to join the Madison Park staff to enhance the learning that is already taking place in order to push all Madison Park students towards achievement. In order to do so, potential educators must feel that they will be entering into a stable school environment in which they will be supported, held to high standards, and appreciated. Establishing a stable leader, consistent partners, and cohesive staff teams can make Madison Park High School an ideal choice for highly effective educators.