Kentucky launching high school academy models
A handful of Kentucky high schools will be using this year to plan for a career academies model.
The Kentucky Department of Education has partnered with the nonprofit National Academy Foundation, which devised the model that combines career-themed curricula and project-based learning, along with help from real-world businesses and industries.
As many as seven or eight schools in Kentucky could be on board this year, during which they will prepare for implementation in the 2012-13 school year. Ten schools will be added each year up until 2015, said Carole Frakes, a consultant in the state education department’s college and career branch. That’s the deadline for districts to meet the goal of increasing their college- and career-ready numbers by 50 percent.
One aspect of this program that stands out is that it is not selective. It is open to all students, Frakes said.
“We want the students who are at risk, who probably are not given that opportunity and now (with this program) they are,” she said.
The career academies developed by the foundation are built around four themes: finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology and engineering. Participating schools can choose all four schoolwide academies, pick just some of the themes or cherry-pick courses from each theme, Frakes said.
Besides core academic courses, students take specialized classes within their academies and also learn from work activities, which is where business partnerships come in.
The National Academy Foundation works with Project Lead the Way and the STEM Academy, two other engineering-heavy national programs that are being used by some Kentucky high schools. The foundation lends its expertise to districts with those programs as well.
Harrison County Schools is one of the systems approved for the inaugural year of the career academy program.
“We look for anything that will enhance the learning process for our children,” Superintendent Andy Dotson said.
Harrison County High School uses Project Lead the Way but decided to apply to make that successful program even better, said Jenny Lynn Hatter, secondary instruction supervisor.
“We thought it would be a good way to give students another set of opportunities in our engineering program,” she said. “It’s another opportunity for our kids to see how things work in the world and to put in practice what they’re learning in school.”