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Partnership Revs Up To Open Mich. Charter School

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An unusual partnership of two universities, a large history museum, and one of the Big Three automakers has formed to open a charter high school in Dearborn, Mich.

In the fall of 1997, 100 Detroit-area 9th graders will enroll in the Henry Ford Academy of Manufacturing Arts and Sciences, which will offer a curriculum based on technology and industry. The Ford Motor Co. will provide money to build the school on the grounds of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

The museum complex, founded by the pioneering automaker in 1929, includes vast collections of artifacts from American history, including the Dayton, Ohio, bicycle shop where the Wright brothers built the first successful airplane and the rebuilt lab from Menlo Park, N.J., where Thomas Edison perfected his electric light and the phonograph.

Each year, the academy will add an additional 100 students from Wayne County, chosen by lottery, until the four-year school reaches its capacity of 400 students.

In addition to the start-up money, the auto company will provide instructional money when the school opens, though exact amounts have not been determined, a museum spokeswoman said.

Students will be able to use the museum's artifacts and exhibits--many of which focus on the industrialization of the United States--as part of their career-oriented instruction.

"This is clearly linked to the traditions established by Henry Ford. ... From the beginning, he envisioned a giant classroom bringing youth together with their future careers, where students would follow his philosophy of 'learning by doing,'" Harold K. Skramstad Jr., the museum's president, said in a statement.

Hands-On Approach

"Academy students will immerse themselves in the historical roots of innovation and problem-solving through exhibits and experiences here," Mr. Skramstad added.

The academy will emphasize hands-on learning and technology, with a focus on math, science, humanities, and problem-solving. It will seek to prepare students for college, apprenticeships in the skilled trades, and jobs in the global workplace.

The academy's organizers are working to develop a curriculum, and will recruit certified teachers with the help of Michigan State University in East Lansing and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

As a charter school, the academy will receive state education money but operate free of many state and local regulations. The Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency will sponsor the school.

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