Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI
|Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI|
|85 Prescott Street
|Founder||Arthur E. Chase|
|Grades||11 - 12|
|Number of students||approx. 100|
|Average SAT scores||661 verbal
2031 total (2014)
Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI (Mass Academy/MAMS/MAMAS) was founded in 1992 by the Massachusetts State Legislature as a public magnet school to serve academically advanced youth in grades eleven and twelve in math, science, and technology.
The school emphasizes math and science within a comprehensive, interactive program. The rigor of the junior year classes exceeds high school honors and AP, with more than 1100 hours of instruction. Seniors complete a year of college, taking the same classes as other students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. WPI is a nationally ranked engineering school, thus making the Academy the only public school in Massachusetts whose students attend a university full-time as seniors in high school. The Academy was originally located in WPI's library in a location called the "fishbowl," but is now located nearby at 85 Prescott Street, near the WPI bioengineering complex.
The Academy is a collaborative effort among the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the high schools of Massachusetts. In addition to passing all classes, the Academy also requires that all students complete 50 hours of community service per year.
Students who want to attend the Academy must apply in the sophomore year of high school, although some exceptions have been made. For example, an occasional freshmen has entered the Academy in what would have been his/her sophomore year at their "sending" school. Othertimes, high school juniors have elected to repeat their eleventh grade at the Academy.
The admissions process is very selective. Grades, teacher recommendations, personal essay, and the academy exam serve as the primary indicators of student ability and motivation.
In 1992, with the fish-bowl, the requirements for entry into the academy required a minimum of 1 years advanced in math and/or science and 2 years ahead in one of the subjects. The admissions process has been changed to the above so this is no longer required.
The Academy encourages students who wish to attend to visit the school for a day. These visitors, called "shadows," follow a host student so as to experience a typical day.
Junior year students attend classes from 8:00 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. These mandatory classes include Mathematical Modeling, Physics, Humanities, Computer Science, STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math), Science and Technical Writing, and Foreign Language. STEM I is a class in which students take on an original research investigation that makes some contribution in that field. Students can either conduct science, math or engineering projects. This class culminates with a science fair in February. STEM II is an engineering class in which students work in three- and four-person teams to develop a piece of assistive technology. These projects are designed with a specific client in mind, usually a young student with a physical handicap. The foreign language classes are also different from most schools. In addition to grammar and translation, the class period consists of making a movie completely in either Spanish or French, singing songs written in foreign language, and discussion in the target language. Two days a week after school students participate in 1.5 hour elective periods, where students can take a class of their choosing. The electives offered each term differ, but have included social dancing, cooking, machine shop, bowling, film appreciation, water colors, photography, advanced mathematics, mock trial, speech and debate, FIRST Robotics, kickboxing, puzzles, German, and drama.
The faculty at the Academy consist of Master Teachers and Visiting Scholars. Master Teachers are faculty who return every year, whereas Visiting Scholars typically come with backgrounds in various fields outside education, and develop their teaching skills over the course of a year or two.
Junior year is very homework intensive and many students find themselves working in the early hours of the morning completing assignments. However, this is typically due to a combination of a heavy workload and procrastination. Thus, students must individually learn the skills of time management.
"C-term", running from early January to the middle of March, is generally agreed to be by far the most difficult. The "STEM I" projects (formerly STREAM A for Science Technology Research Engineering and Mathematics, and before that, RS for Research Seminar) and papers must be completed in this time span - these involve individual research into areas not typically studied by high-school students, such as heuristics and mechanical design.
During their senior year, students take on a full-time course load at WPI. There is no tuition charged to the student. Each term students take one math class, one science class, and one humanities class for a total of twelve courses in 4 terms. In addition, by the end of senior year, each student must complete a senior independent study project.
Mass Academy has sent students to Cornell University, Brown University, Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGill University, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, the California Institute of Technology and many other top schools since its inception in 1992. Many schools accept all WPI credits, allowing Mass Academy students to graduate a year early.
Benefits from association with WPI
Because of the association with WPI, Mass Academy students enjoy many amenities offered by WPI. Students at Mass Academy have access to much of what WPI offers. The student center, for example, is a prized social place for Academy students. In the classroom, professors report that Mass Academy seniors tend to be highly engaged class participants and do very well academically.
Mass Academy seniors are issued IDs that can be used as a regular WPI ID to gain access to various WPI facilities including the gym, library, bowling alley, computer labs, and courts.
Mass Academy students, however, are prohibited from joining any sport teams, varsity or club, at WPI. Because, as high school students, NCAA rules make them ineligible for college teams. Students are also prohibited from entering the dormitories at WPI. Any student found in a dormitory will face harsh consequences, which could ultimately lead to an expulsion from the Academy.
Most students graduating from Mass Academy will meet freshmen math requirements in college since three or more terms of calculus is required of everyone. Many students will be eligible to graduate a year early from college because of the year at WPI. Almost all colleges accept credits from WPI, which is ranked 62 on US Newsweek top 100 Universities in the nation.
Mass Academy students have won numerous awards at the state, regional, national, and international levels. Each year at least 10 or 11 Mass Academy students achieve honorable mention, thirds, seconds and firsts at the Massachusetts State Science Fair. Three have won the prestigious Fish and Richardson Award. Students have also performed well on the annual Math Modeling competition, with some achieving regional outstanding.
While the school is known for a strong math and science program, students who attend the school are also very talented in the humanities. Many students are accomplished musicians with some achieving state wide recognition. Some students have won recognition in national writing contests. The Academy also finished strong the Massachusetts Envirothon competition for the past several years.
A junior who fails the first term may be asked to return to his/her sending school before it is too late so as to avoid damaging the student's high school transcript. The reason for this is that students who do not pass the first term are unlikely to pass the proceeding terms.
Any senior who fails a class during the first term of WPI classes will be asked to return to his/her sending school. A single failure in any other term requires a summer make-up course while two or more failures in any other term leads to a return to the sending school. This is so that students who are unable to handle the college courses are still able to graduate at their sending schools.
- Susan L.J. Dickinson (May 11, 1992). "Although Some Cynics Call Them Elitist, Math And Science Magnet Schools Flourish". The Scientist magazine. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
Such statistics have convinced Massachusetts state senator Arthur E. Chase that--especially in a state known for its high concentration of technology-based industry--something must be done to alter the bleak predictions for the scientific future of the U.S. His response will take shape in September with the opening of the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science, a state-funded public high school that will be located on the grounds of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Chase has designed this magnet school with the help of a wide range of concerned educational groups, and, with unanimous approval by the state board of education in hand, he is confident that the bill establishing the school will pass the state legislature in June and the school can open in September. Although this program incorporates several facets of other, established "magnet" science high schools across the country--such as the Bronx High School of Science in New York and the Durham-based North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM)--Chase believes that his plan, based on a public-private partnership with a large dose of community outreach built in, may be the best yet. "This is different and unique," says Chase. "We're going to establish this program at a fraction of the cost that most other states have spent, and we're getting more for our buck." Chase says the school will cost taxpayers roughly the same amount per student as other Massachusetts public schools and about half of what some magnet schools cost.
- Karen Diegmueller (February 19, 1992). "Academy of Math, Science Proposed in Massachusetts". Education Week. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
The pilot project, proposed by Senators Arthur E. Chase and Matthew J. Amorello, would enable between 50 and 100 students per grade to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute beginning in September 1993
- "Massachusetts to Open a Public Science School". New York Times. February 19, 1992. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
The new Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science would be the first such nonresidential, state-financed school of excellence to be housed at an existing college, said one sponsor, State Senator Arthur E. Chase, a Republican from Worcester.
- Jack Minch (7 November 2011). "Academy of Math classes plus dedicated students equals success". Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
The school was the dream of former state Sen. Arthur Chase. The state spends money on low-income students to help them but not enough was being done to help the high achievers, Chase said. "It's those who are the highest achievers," he said from his retirement home in Naples, Fla. "It's not the brightest, it's a school for highest achievers." He ran for office in 1991 on a platform of improving math and science education so when he took office he formed a bi-partisan caucus of legislators from central Massachusetts to develop political clout. He designed the concept for the academy based on a model of a school in North Carolina. Chase quickly understood he could not replicate the school. It had been built from the ground up and when he took office the state was facing a nearly $1 billion deficit, Chase said. He came up with the idea of a public-private partnership. "The thought came in my head, the best private colleges and universities in the country are right here in Massachusetts, why can't we team up and use some of their resources in stead of rebuilding," Chase recalled. He met with college presidents in the Worcester area but only Jon Strauss, the then-president of WPI was interested in working on a school for high school students. "He recognized there are young people so bright, talented and motivated , they are not getting it at public schools," Chase said. "They don't have the courses available." Chase was afraid detractors would claim the concept was elitist and worked to keep news from leaking out. Salvatelli still chafes at the suggestion the school is elitist. The students come represent the spectrum of the socio-economic scale and are not even always the brightest, but they are motivated to work toward their goals, he said. The caucus helped slip $500,000 in the state education budget for the school that went unnoticed by most people the first year. The first class of students were seniors who took courses at WPI in 1992. Chase's fears were realized in the ensuing years when there was a call to cut its funding. "We didn't think it was going to survive the first couple years," Salvatelli said. The budget this year is $1.3 million. It works on such a small budget because WPI gives the school support services, nursing and rent-free space, Salvatelli said. "To me this is the love of my live and greatest thing I ever accomplished in public office," Chase said.
- Michael Barney (13 January 2015). "Chase's educational legacy As I See It". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
Now in its 23rd year, the Mass Academy is a public school that allows academically accelerated 11th and 12th graders in Massachusetts to learn in a co-educational school of excellence on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Students are immersed in experiential learning and when they graduate they have both a high school diploma and a year's worth of college credits.