Mass Academy of Math and Science Marks 20-Year Anniversary

Celebration and Reception to Feature Alumni, Historical Perspective
May 22, 2012

The Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science at WPI will mark its 20th anniversary with a reception on May 23 at 6 p.m. in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Campus Center Odeum.

WPI President Dennis Berkey will join the festivities and welcome educators and alumni. Mass Academy Director Michael Barney will also share his thoughts.

Among those offering congratulations will be Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray and U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester. Former state senator Arthur Chase, who was instrumental in the legislation that established the Academy, will offer some historical perspective. In addition, Melissa Tata, president of the Society of Women Engineers and director of the Engineering and Supply Chain at Dell, herself a graduate of Mass Academy's first class, will deliver alumni reflections, along with Brian Foley, a graduate of the Academy and WPI.

Between 1993 and 2012, some 751 students have graduated from the Academy, and 100 percent have gone on to a four-year college or university. Of those, 55 percent live and work in Massachusetts, and 60 percent have gone on to graduate school. Eighty-six percent of Mass Academy grads earned science or math degrees at four-year colleges.

In addition, 5,000 teachers from the region have participated in professional development workshops at the Academy from 2001 through 2011.

Each year the faculty selects approximately 50 students for the junior class. New students are not admitted to the senior class. The applicant pool represents about 80 schools—both public and private—in Central Massachusetts. In 2012, students came from 39 communities. The acceptance rate is less than 50 percent. Most candidates are high honors students in their home schools.

Mass Academy has received praise for its curriculum and faculty from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, whose Visiting Committee in 2009 cited the partnership between the Academy and WPI for making a wide variety of services and resources available for students.

"From the moment one walks through the door, one knows this is a place where teaching is brought to very high levels, and learning is personal and authentic," the NEASC report says in part. "At the Academy, students regularly demonstrate their abilities to think creatively, to present with exemplary skill, to use technology to support their learning, and to be problem-solvers. Indeed, at the Academy, the mission statement and expectations for student learning are real, observable, and alive.

"…Couple this with faculty members who are not only experts in their fields but also passionate about what they do on a daily basis, and you do, indeed, have a very special place where the emphasis is clearly on learning. Self-improvement is far more important than competition. Learning is of much greater value than high grades. The emphasis during the junior year at the Academy is on project-based, inquiry learning that concurrently fosters teamwork and independence. …The entire structure of the curriculum at the Academy emphasis depth of understanding over breadth of coverage and affords each student many opportunities to apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge to real-world applications. …This is a very concrete example of how students can move beyond acquiring knowledge to using knowledge. The curriculum at the Academy is specifically geared to zero in on the students’ special talents and skills."

About Mass Academy of Math and Science at WPI

Mass Academy is a public, co-educational school of excellence program that enrolls about 100 academically accelerated 11th and 12th graders. Math and science are emphasized within a comprehensive, interactive academic program. The rigor of the junior year classes exceeds high school honors and AP, emphasizing depth over breadth, engaging students in project-based learning and more than 1,200 hours of instruction. Seniors complete a full year of college, enrolling in classes at WPI, a nationally-ranked university, thus making the Academy the only public school in Massachusetts whose students attend a private university full time as seniors in high school. The Academy is a collaborative effort among the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the high schools of Massachusetts.