West Caldwell Tech Designated Blue Ribbon School
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Vocational Technical School District announced on Friday, Sep. 7 that Essex County West Caldwell Tech was named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Essex County West Caldwell is the second high school in the Essex County Vocational Technical School. District to achieve Blue Ribbon status; Essex County Bloomfield Tech was named a Blue Ribbon school in 2009.
The U.S. Department of Education announced 269 schools throughout the country as 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools based on their overall academic excellence or for making progress in improving student academic achievement levels. Essex County West Caldwell Tech was the only school in Essex County to be recognized this year. There were 17 schools in New Jersey and six of them were vocational technical schools.
“The Blue Ribbon Award is a symbol of educational excellence and represents another milestone for Essex County and our Vocational-Technical School District,” DiVincenzo said. “Receiving this prestigious national recognition is evidence of the first class education provided in our school district, and an indication of the dedication of our students, the commitment of our teachers and the support of the district,” he added.
“We are honored to have West Caldwell Tech designated as the second Blue Ribbon school in our district. This is particularly impressive since it is our district’s second such recognition in the last four years,” Dr. Michael A. Pennella said. “Today is a special day in the district’s history. Congratulations to the ECVTS community and hats off to the teachers, administrators and staff of West Caldwell Tech. Being recognized for your hard work and dedication is a tremendous victory that we applaud as fellow members of a powerful learning community,” he added.
The Essex County West Caldwell Tech campus was included among the schools being recognized for improving student achievement levels. What makes this progress even more outstanding is the fact that an overwhelming majority of the students at West Caldwell Tech are classified as special education students.
Reviewing High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) results, in 2003, just 3 percent of the students passed the math portion of the HSPA and 9.1 percent passed the language arts portion. The next year the school had zero percent of its students pass either section. Since then, however, scores have improved steadily. Math scores rose to 23.7 percent passing in 2007; 44 percent passing in 2009; 63.1 percent passing in 2010; 68 percent passing in 2011 and 85 percent passing in 2012. Language arts scores have also been on the rise with 23.7 percent passing in 2007; 44 percent passing in 2009; 69.5 percent passing in 2010; 78.7 percent passing in 2011 and 97.5 percent passing in 2012.
Dr. Bickram Singh, Supervisor of Program Accountability with the ECVTS, said what is even more impressive is the achievement level of the school’s special education students. Of these students, 82.1 percent passed the math HSPA and 96.4 percent passed the language arts HSPA in 2012.
Superintendent Pennella credited several strategies incorporated at the school with addressing students’ needs and helping improve achievement at West Caldwell Tech. First, incoming and current students from throughout the Essex County Vocational Technical School District who are identified as needing extra help attend a five-week summer program, which this summer was held at Essex County Newark Tech. Second, the school day at Essex County West Caldwell Tech ends at 4 p.m., whereas most other public schools end their school day at 3 p.m. Finally, the superintendent, principal and administrative staff meets at West Caldwell Tech with members of the teaching staff every Monday to review goals for the entire school as well as review the progress for individual students. This ongoing analysis of individual student progress enables teachers, with the support of the district, to intervene earlier and provide specialized help to students who need it either during regular class or in afterschool sessions.
West Caldwell Tech enrolls 325 students from throughout Essex County, with an overwhelming majority of the students receiving special education. Programs range from cosmetology, retail careers, automotive technology, culinary arts and business technology, to new offerings in the fields of agriscience, digital communications and mobile application development.
The Essex County Vocational Technical School District is New Jersey's oldest and one of the largest Vocational Technical School Systems. Created in 1914, the school system provides academic and technical instruction for high school and adult students in the Essex County region. The district has four high schools: Bloomfield Tech, Newark Tech, North 13th Street Tech and West Caldwell Tech. In addition, the system provides adult programs in the evening at Newark Tech. The district has an enrollment of about 2,200 students and provides high level state-of-the-art career and technical skill development and academic opportunities in over 25 career areas.