Course Structure

All courses offered at Essex Technical High School are college preparatory so that all students are college or career ready. Courses are structured using the following delineations:

Advanced Placement

Advanced Placement courses require students to apply advanced critical thinking and analytical skills that are typical of comparable college-level courses. This guiding Advanced Placement enrollment policy holds true for all Advanced Placement courses and exams, regardless of the grade level in which a student takes Advanced Placement coursework. Advanced Placement courses are specifically designed to provide challenging, college-level coursework for willing and academically prepared high school students. The amount of homework and independent research and reading is significantly more than in other courses. Students are expected to take the Advanced Placement exam in the spring. Advanced Placement courses follow specific guidelines and requirements set forth by the College Board.
For more information visit the AP Central website:


This level is the most academically challenging and it moves at a rigorous pace with nightly homework as well as independent projects. Students in honors courses should possess a strong interest in learning and have a high level of intellectual curiosity. Students are expected to be self-motivated and work well with others. Homework is required to be done on time to ensure participation in daily class discussions.

Accelerated College Preparatory

Accelerated College Preparatory is designed for students preparing for two- and four-year college. The curriculum develops critical skills for college and career readiness and moves at a moderate pace. Students should evidence a solid interest in learning and work well independently and in groups with teacher direction. Students are capable and willing to put time and effort into their assignments. These courses require daily homework, longer term projects, and consistent participation in various class activities.

College Preparatory

College Preparatory is designed for college-bound and career-oriented students. The curriculum develops critical skills for college and career readiness and moves at a pace that focuses on content and skills essential to succeed after high school. Students will complete assignments independently and in small groups in a structured class environment and have homework assignments and projects that extend the concepts and skills practiced in class.

Academic Skills Workshop

This course is a requirement for all freshman. It consists of a rotating schedule with a different content focus for each trimester (one trimester each of literacy, mathematics, and science). Students take all three with the same group. Content for the course is based on Pre-Advanced Placement curriculum. Materials provide students with the deep content knowledge and essential critical thinking skills necessary to meet Standards and to be prepared for college success.

In English, lessons train students to identify relevant textual support for an idea and how to evaluate arguments based on the quality of evidence and the validity of the reasoning. English lessons guide students through the process of connecting a writer’s’ choice of words, phrases, punctuation, and syntax to create the desired meaning within a text.

Mathematics lessons take students beyond the standard skill-based approach to a conceptual understanding of mathematics. By incorporating many concepts into one lesson and by presenting questions in a variety of modalities, students are engaged in interesting activities that require them to think, to reason, and to engage in mathematical inquiry. Students are encouraged to explain their solutions and to verbalize their thinking processes.

In Science, students develop a series of thinking skills. They progress from acquiring facts to being able to analyze and evaluate various pieces of scientific information. The science materials are content-based with an emphasis on laboratory skills and the integration of mathematics, technology, and the graphing calculator into the science classroom.

Project-Based Learning Lab (Grade 11 Elective)

This elective is designed to have grade 11 students during their academic week work collaboratively with a specific CTE project to develop and implement connections between academics and technical/agricultural learning.  The focus for this course will be a campus-based sustainability project to improve water quality while restoring the pond pathway and surrounding areas that will one day be open to Essex Tech students as well as to the public.  Students in the Project-Based Learning Lab will support students in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Technology to manage resources involving ecology and conservation in the development of this legacy project.  While students do not have to be in either Natural Resources Management or Environmental Technology tech areas, it will help to have a general interest in this project and a willingness to help it be a success. This elective is open only to students in their junior year.

Academics Overview Presentation

The link below is to the presentation shown at Freshman Parent Orientation on August 23, 2016.


Contact Information

Ms. Mary Alice Murdoch, STEM Director – ext. 3107

Mary-Alice-MurdochAs the STEM Director for Essex Technical High School, Mary Alice Murdoch brings more than 20 years of experience as a teacher, instructional support coach, department head, and content director. Mary Alice has worked as a manager in the STEM Department at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and as a K-12 Staff Development Specialist for the Regional Alliance at TERC, Inc. She has provided content and pedagogy training, workshop facilitation, and graduate instruction to teachers for over 15 years, including her current work as a trainer for the National Mathematics and Science Initiatives Laying the Foundation Program.

At Essex Technical High School, Mary Alice directs the teachers and curriculum development for the STEM programs–all Mathematics, Science and Wellness courses, and ensures that STEM-related curricula are aligned to the Common Core and state frameworks. Prior to working at ETHS, Mary Alice was the K-12 Mathematics Director for the Waltham Public Schools; Mathematics Department Head for Swampscott High School; and Mathematics Instructional Support Coach for the Cambridge Public Schools. In addition, she spent 13 years teaching Mathematics and Science at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Mary Alice Murdoch holds a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics from Boston College, an M.A. in Mathematics Education and an M.A. in Science Education from Lesley University, and a C.A.G.S. in Educational Leadership from Salem State University. She is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Education Network, the North Shore Science Supervisors Association, and the Greater Boston Regional Common Core Advisory Team.


Mr. Thomas O’Toole, Humanities Director – ext. 3311

otoole16As the Humanities Director for Essex Technical High School, Tom O’Toole brings more than 25 years of experience as a teacher, counselor, chief reader, ELA lead developer, and content director. Tom served as the ELA Lead Developer for all the MCAS English Language Arts tests for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and as a Director of School Partnerships for Project PACE [Performance Assessment Collaboratives for Education] at the Harvard Graduate School of Education responsible for offering PreK-12 teacher trainings in all content areas through the Massachusetts Performance Assessment Program. He served as Chief Reader for the MCAS ELA Composition Scoring Institutes throughout the state.  He has provided content and pedagogy training, workshop facilitation, and graduate instruction to counselors, including his current work with Writing With Colors, a writing development program that benefits students of all ability levels.

At Essex Technical High School, Tom directs the teachers and curriculum and assessment development for the Humanities programs–all English, History and Social Sciences, and Spanish courses, and ensures that Humanities-related curricula are aligned to the respective Massachusetts curriculum frameworks. Prior to working at ETHS, Tom was the 6-12 English Director for the Waltham Public Schools. In addition, Tom taught English and writing at Phillips Andover Academy, Boston College High School, Haverford School, The Holden School, where he also served as a counselor, and at Waltham High School.

Tom O’Toole holds a B.A. in English from Boston College, an M.A.T. in Teaching English from Brown University, and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Boston College. He is a member of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, the National Council of Teachers of English, American Psychological Association, and the Massachusetts Council for Social Studies.



Academic Secretary – Ms. Diane Cedorchuck – ext. 3313