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High Schools That Work Initiative (HSTW)

High Schools That Work (HSTW) was originally created in 1987 by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in partnership with a consortium of eleven states. High Schools That Work has been nationally recognized as the nation's fastest growing, whole school reform initiative with data to show it works. HSTW sites provide a program of study that includes both academic courses and modern career and technical studies to prepare all students for both broad career fields and further education.

HSTW came to SW Ohio in 1998, through the work of William E. Lambert. He utilized School-to-Work funding to support six high school sites in investigating the model. A team from each of these sites wrote a unique HSTW model blueprint that would enable them to implement the model in their high school or career-technical center.

The HSTW initiative is a comprehensive approach to high performance schools that complements and supports the educational goals of Ohio. As a research and assessment-based reform initiative, HSTW sites are guided by a framework of goals, key practices, and key conditions to improve school instruction and student achievement. The HSTW vision requires its schools to rethink the way they deliver learning, so that all children are successful. The initiative provides targeted professional development, networking with high performing sites, and regular feedback from expert professionals. A comprehensive assessment allows staffs to track their progress.


High expectations: Motivate more students to meet higher standards by integrating high expectations into classroom practices and providing frequent feedback.

Program of study: Require each student to complete an upgraded academic core and a concentration.

Academic studies: Teach more students the essential concepts of the college-preparatory curriculum by encouraging them to apply academic content and skills to real-world problems and projects.

Career/technical studies: Provide more students access to intellectually challenging career/technical studies in high-demand fields that emphasize the higher-level academic and problem-solving skills needed in the workplace and in further education.

Work-based learning: Enable students and their parents to choose from programs that integrate challenging high school studies and work-based learning and are planned by educators, employers and students.

Teachers working together: Provide cross-disciplinary teams of teachers time and support to work together to help students succeed in challenging academic and career/technical studies.

Students actively engaged: Engage students in academic and career/technical classrooms in rigorous and challenging proficient-level assignments using research-based instructional strategies and technology.

Guidance: Involve students and their parents in a guidance and advisement system that develops positive relationships and ensures completion of an accelerated program of study with an academic or career/technical concentration.

Extra help: Provide a structured system of extra help to assist students in completing accelerated programs of study with high-level academic and technical content.

Culture of continuous improvement: Use data continually to improve school culture, organization, management, curriculum and instruction to advance student learning.


The mission of High Schools That Work (HSTW) is to create a culture of high expectations that motivates students to make the effort to succeed in school. To achieve this mission, HSTW has set several goals for continuous improvement:

  • Increase the percentage of high school students who meet college- and career-readiness goals to at least 85 percent.
  • Increase the percentage of students completing the HSTW-recommended curriculum to 85 percent.
  • Increase the percentage of high school students who complete high school in four years to 90 percent.
  • Advance state and local policies and leadership initiatives that sustain a continuous school improvement effort.
  • Help all students leave high school with an employer certification, postsecondary credit, or the knowledge and skills needed to avoid remedial postsecondary studies.

HSTW Conditions for Accelerating Student Achievement

HSTW believes everyone — teacher, school, district, local and state leaders — must work together to create the conditions in which student achievement, graduation rates and school culture can improve.

  • A clear, functional mission statement: Each school has a clear, functional mission statement to prepare high school students for success in postsecondary education and the workplace.
  • Strong leadership: Each district and school has strong and committed leaders to improve, align and benchmark curricula to high standards, to improve the quality of instruction, and to raise student achievement and graduation rates.
  • Plan for continuous improvement: District and school leaders create an organizational structure and process that ensures continuous involvement with faculty on what to teach; how to teach it; what students are expected to learn; how to assess what they have learned; and how they relate to each other, to the students and to the home and community.
  • Qualified teachers: Teachers have in-depth knowledge of their subject areas and of teaching strategies appropriate to students' grade levels. The school and district employ teachers who have depth in their teaching fields and support them in learning how to teach well.
  • Commitment to goals: School leaders and teachers are committed to achieving the HSTW Goals and implementing the Key Practices. School boards are committed to having all students complete a demanding academic core and an academic or career/technical concentration, or both.
  • Flexible scheduling: School superintendents and school boards permit high schools to adopt flexible schedules enabling students to earn more credits and redo work until it meets at least grade-level standards.
  • Support for professional development: District and school leaders provide teachers with instructional materials, planning time and professional development for implementing new curriculums and research-based instructional methods.