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Obama in Worcester to uphold school as model

People lined the streets in the hours before President Obama’s speech in Worcester.

David Scharfenberg/Globe staff

People lined the streets in the hours before President Obama’s speech in Worcester.

WASHINGTON -- President Obama this afternoon is heading to Worcester to deliver the commencement address to the graduating class at Worcester Technical High School, with plans to uphold the school as what a successful American high school should look like.

“The school’s combination of rigorous academics and hands-on learning opportunities characterizes the President’s vision for an education that works for America’s students,” according to a White House official. “He will reiterate his commitment to reforming America’s education system, as well as his challenge to redesign America’s high schools and connect our nation’s learners to high-speed broadband.”

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The White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the president’s speech, said Obama also plans to underscore his efforts to make college more affordable, highlighting legislation pushed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat. The legislation -- with a companion bill filed in the House by Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat -- would tax the wealthy so college graduates can refinance their loans.

Obama also plans to recognize individual students, the official said, “who represent the best of Worcester Tech -- the best of our country.”

“Worcester Tech is a model of what can happen when a community decides to invest in the success of its young people,” the official said. “And the President is determined to continue making progress for America’s students by replicating the transformation seen in Worcester in high schools and communities across the country.”

Worcester Tech is led by Dr. Sheila Harrity, a National High School Principal of the Year who was recognized last month at the White House. When Harrity took over in 2006, the school was one of the lowest performing schools in the state, but Obama believes the reforms implemented fit his model for what schools across the country should do to be successful.

The school is now among the top in Massachusetts, in terms of testing scores. Graduation rates and those who pursue higher education has also gone up.

The last sitting president to visit Worcester was President Clinton in 1999.

Following the commencement address in Worcester, Obama is planning to headline a dinner in Weston that will benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Both of the state’s senators, Warren and Edward J. Markey, are scheduled to attend the dinner, held at the Weston home of Joanne and Paul Egerman, two big Democratic donors.

Governor Deval Patrick is also planning to attend, as well as Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, the chairman of the DSCC. Tickets to the event, which include dinner and a photo, run a hefty $32,400 per person, according to an invitation obtained by the Globe.

Watch live video of the ceremony below:

Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com.

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