Paul M. Hodgson Vo-Tech High School in Newark, Delaware, helps students acquire career-oriented skills and habits by applying the principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national organization that encourages students to demonstrate what they've learned. Hodgson's 900 students build houses, assist in the dental clinic located at the school, or work with local employers.
Their performance is evaluated in a work-readiness assessment that notes individual attendance, cooperation, and the ability to complete tasks. In order to graduate, all seniors must present a work-based project to a panel of experts who hold it to the standards of their field.
Hodgson guarantees that its graduates will measure up on the job. Employers who are dissatisfied can send a graduate back to the school for retraining.
The emphasis on vocational skills does not come at the expense of academics. During the ninth through eleventh grades, students take classes from a team of teachers who stress thinking and writing skills in every subject.
In 1995, 84 percent of Hodgson students were rated competent or better on Delaware's writing assessment. "Traditional academic skills are an essential part of preparing students for the workplace," says Principal Steven Godowsky.