Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional School District


Program Summary: Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School is a regional school serving 13 towns in central Massachusetts. Located in the heart of the region, Blackstone Valley has a student population of approximately 1,000 students in grades 9 through 12. It offers 18 distinctive vocational technical programs, along with a structured academic core program.

The school’s philosophy is “to provide the individual student with the academic and vocational/technical skills essential to achieve success in a productive career as well as to provide the global community with a highly qualified and prepared workforce.” Blackstone Valley prides itself on providing students with a safe learning environment with an emphasis on integrating specialized vocational/technical training and academic learning. A specialized curriculum called “Across the Curriculum” focuses on reading, math, study strategies and respect. Instruction is individualized and recognizes diverse learning styles while incorporating the use of state-of-the art technology. Student portfolios highlight academic, vocational, and extra-curricular accomplishments. A comprehensive counseling program and a wide array of extracurricular activities are available to all students.

The school also acts as a focal point for the region by sponsoring local, regional, and state level conferences on the economy, technology, and education; establishing regional technology; and actively participating with government agencies, chambers of commerce, educational collaboratives, and the media. Students complete hundreds of hours of community service projects that draw on students’ and their instructors’ vocational technical skills.

Program Structure/Design: The structure of the Blackstone Valley program follows the academy model, which clusters programs by career focus. Every student completes four years of English, math, science, social studies, and a vocational-technical program. In addition, students complete two years of physical education/health. Electives are available in subjects such as Spanish language, A+ training, business, and other vocational-technical related subjects.

Blackstone Valley believes that all students can master complex academic and technical concepts. The school has a modified school year calendar, with an increased number of school days (13 more than the mandatory 180 school days), a modified block schedule that provides longer class periods than typical secondary school schedules, and increased time for math and English.

Blackstone Valley, which has won national awards for its effective practices and marked improvement, uses information provided by the feeder school systems to develop individualized student success plans. Staff members also attend transitional meetings with teachers and other school personnel from the eighth-grade feeder schools. About 20% of the students are youth with disabilities, predominately learning and emotional. Most of these students come with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan, but there is also an extensive assessment process when students are freshmen, which identifies undisclosed disabilities and helps refine existing plans. The system places high expectations on its students and staff. Reviews are regularly scheduled with parents. Upon entry, every student’s reading ability is assessed and there is an extensive reading program to assist those students not reading at their appropriate grade level.

Students have the opportunity, and are encouraged, to participate in a number of after-school organized sports, clubs, and other school-related activities. Every fall an activities fair is held where students can learn about the wide range of activities available. Bus transportation is made available to students who participate in after school activities.

States of Operation: MA

Youth Targeted:
• In-school youth
• Runaway youth
• Youth with disabilities
• Pregnant or parenting youth
• Youth offenders
• Youth in foster care or aging out
• Rural youth
• Urban youth
• Minority youth

Profile Year: 2007


School-Based Preparatory Experiences: Blackstone Valley has an intense focus on insuring that its students meet the academic standards, as measured by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). The School uses a variety of diagnostic tests and tools to identify students’ needs and to measure progress. For all incoming ninth grade students, a process is in place to review diagnostic tests, IEPs, and 504 plans. Transition meetings are held with personnel from the sending school. Individual service strategy plans are prepared for all incoming students whose school history indicates potential difficulties on MCAS testing. Individual assessment continues in grades 9 and 10 to identify academic needs and develop plans for addressing them. Individual student success plans are developed for every tenth grade student that does not pass the MCAS.

Blackstone Valley has implemented a number of “Across-the-Curriculum” initiatives to reinforce academic learning. These initiatives include Reading Across the Curriculum, Writing and Thinking Across the Curriculum, Math Across the Curriculum, and Study Strategies across the Curriculum. Student portfolios are used to highlight academic, vocational, and extracurricular accomplishments. Students who are identified as being in danger of failing MCAS are encouraged to participate in additional learning activities outside of the regular school year. A Summer Learning Enhancement Academy and MCAS Survivor and Math Madness camps are offered. Additional learning incentives include the Superintendent’s Commendation List (Honor Roll), individual congratulatory cards to students’ parents, and occasional student cash prizes donated by industry and others.

Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: All incoming freshman students participate in the Exploratory Program. The career guidance program is an integral component. Members of the student support services department conduct career guidance classes once a week during the academic weeks of the Exploratory Program. The purpose of these classes is to assist students in making decisions about permanent career area placement.

Incoming students are encouraged to explore various occupational areas, including non-traditional placements, and to pursue a vocation based on the individual’s potential, interests, and awareness of the requirements of that occupation. During the Exploratory Program, students are scheduled for a cycle of vocational-technical training in different career areas. The career areas they are scheduled for are determined by the choices indicated, upon acceptance to the school. The incoming freshman, who start school in August, participate in six career areas. At the end of each cycle, students receive a numeric grade. Students and their parents are asked to choose their first three career areas of preference. Every effort is made to place students in their first choice. Students are allowed to change their mind.

Job shadowing, job internships, work/study programs, and cooperative education are available for students to learn about the world of work and to develop and apply both academic and vocational/technical skills. Community-based projects are selected to enhance and extend classroom and laboratory experiences, as well as to provide some earning opportunity for students. Jobs are selected that, in the opinion of the vocational-technical staff, have merit for learning and will not displace current workers. Safety is another consideration. Each year, anywhere from 600 to 800 students participate in these work projects, which are reflected in their individual portfolios and provide integrated learning opportunities.

Youth Development and Leadership: In addition to the numerous community work projects that provide students the opportunity for interaction with adults and peers, students at Blackstone Valley are able to participate in various other youth development and leadership activities. The school is actively involved in the national JASON Project, which integrates science across the curriculum. As part of the project, Blackstone Valley students impart their knowledge to younger students providing for greater learning on both sides of the equation. A great number of Blackstone Valley students annually participate in SkillsUSA, a national student-run organization that serves trade, industrial, technical, and health occupation students with various leadership, citizenship, and character development activities and programs. Students compete at the district, state, and national levels each year. Blackstone Valley students have a history of success at all levels, including having been chosen as gold medal winners at the national conference. Several Blackstone Valley students are in the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Academy. Students may also participate in the National Honor Society, Student Council, Team Harmony/SADD, Model United Nations, and annual Lions Club Speech Contest among other extra-curricular activities. Several of Blackstone Valley’s organizations require students to complete community service hours.

Connecting Activities: Because Blackstone Valley recognizes that healthy workers and healthy students have increased attendance and performance and generally improve the attitudinal climate of the school, physical education and health are a priority. A separate health center, operated in cooperation with the local regional hospital, operates within the confines of the school building. Students have access to nurse practitioner services, periodic physician services, a mental health counselor, a nutritionist, and other health-related services.

Blackstone Valley aggressively pursues grants and other additional revenue sources to increase student learning opportunities. The school has a history of securing more than $1 million in grants, rebates, and non-taxpayer resources over the last several years. For example, Blackstone Valley, in collaboration with one of its sister vocational technical schools, is being awarded a $711,000 three-year, federal grant as part of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program.


Management: Administrators, secretaries, aides, teaching assistants, and custodians are evaluated through individual performance contracts, which determine their increases in salary. Goals are measurable and agreed upon by the individual and supervisor. Members of the teaching staff are eligible to receive performance bonuses based upon student achievement. Blackstone Valley was the first school in the Commonwealth to negotiate such a system-wide externally determined performance award. The system also participates in the national High Schools That Work initiative, which provides a template and additional data to analyze performance and compare with other similar systems across the country. The vision of the superintendent-director and strong leadership from a school committee comprised of individuals with varied business expertise establishes an atmosphere of high expectations from administrators, teachers, staff, and students.

Staff Development: More than ten years ago, the system enacted a Total Quality Management administrative approach to forming a cohesive leadership team at the school. This empowered the administrative and teaching staff to make, and continue to make, changes in organization, accountability, and classroom and vocational technical instruction. An agreement was also reached for an ambitious professional development standard that is twice the amount required by the state. Each teacher is asked to achieve sixty hours of professional development per year, and a variety of professional development programs and workshops are offered to all staff in a cohesive team approach. Staff members are encouraged to attend conferences, at which time they share the effective practices of the Blackstone Valley system while also gathering information and ideas from colleagues across the country to ensure continuous improvement.

Collaboration: More than 320 businesses provide support to the system. Members of the business community serve on advisory committees, which frequently examine the validity and prioritization of the school’s learning activities. The system strives to increase and solidify matriculation agreements with postsecondary institutions in pursuit of its goal of 100% placement of all graduates. In addition to the School Based Health Center and the partnership with a local hospital, Blackstone Valley also has ties with organizations such as the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC). As part of its expansion and renovation project, Blackstone Valley works with the MTC as a “Green School,” incorporating renewable energy and conservation practices. The superintendent-director serves on numerous executive boards, including a panel of regional superintendents that pursues common professional interests and helps build stronger schools throughout the district.


Data: Student Achievement on the MCAS Tests – Percentage Passing on First Testing

Basic MCAS Test Advanced MCAS Test
English Language Math English Language Math
2004 (class of 2006) 97.0% 95.0% 57% 54%
2003 (class of 2005) 95.6% 82.4% 43% 36%
2002 (class of 2004) 90.3% 77.0% 34% 34%
2001 (class of 2003) 82.1% 78.7% 29% 33%


In addition, the school reports that virtually 100% of their students graduate and are placed into postsecondary education, the military, apprenticeship programs, or jobs.

Third-Party Documentation:

National Awards

  • National School Change Award (2004) — For demonstrating significant change and progress over the previous 10 years in overall structure, programs, initiatives, and student achievement. (From Fordham University Graduate School of Education, Pearson Education, and the American Association of School Administrators).
  • Leadership for Learning Award (2004) — For integration and partnership with local elementary and middle schools. One of three schools in United States to receive annual award. (From American Association of School Administrators). President’s Technology Award (2004) — For vision and leadership in education technology. One of 18 schools in country to receive annual award. (From American Association of School Administrators).
  • Silver Performance Award and Pacesetter Site (1999) — Recognized for improving student learning and achievement. School was also included in the Southern Regional Education Board’s “Outstanding Practices” book for its writing across the curriculum endeavor. (From national High Schools That Work).


Massachusetts Awards
2003 Massachusetts Compass School (2003-04) — Chosen for 2003-04 academic year by Massachusetts Department of Education for school-wide improvements and effective and successful practices, including a longer school year to increase student performance. Was the only vocational technical system among four high schools chosen. (From Mass. Department of Education).

MCAS Success
Achieved the highest passing percentage among the Commonwealth’s vocational technical schools and met or exceeded the passing rate of all high schools within the Blackstone Valley District when the Class of 2004 achieved 100% competency determination on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests. Able to attain high academic success despite 50% of instructional time devoted to workforce preparation.

Organization Name: Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional School District
Organization Director: Dr. Michael F. Fitzpatrick, Superintendent-Director
Program Name: Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School
Street Address: 65 Pleasant St.
City: Upton
State: MA

Contact Person: Stephen C. Grabowski
Contact Title: Research/Information Services Officer
Contact E-mail: