Opinion
Education Funding Letter to the Editor

Alternative-Pathways Story Omitted Career Academy Model

May 21, 2013 2 min read
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To the Editor:

The article “States Seek High School Pathways Weaving Academic, Career Options” (April 24, 2013) highlights several promising efforts to address the need for career pathways modeled on the European apprenticeship system. The article doesn’t mention the career academy model, one particularly successful approach to preparing young people for a range of postsecondary and career opportunities tied to economic-development needs.

Career academies, started in Philadelphia in 1969 and supported there today by Philadelphia Academies Inc., or PAI, are backed by research demonstrating their positive impacts on academic outcomes—including attendance, grade point averages, graduation rates, and college-attendance rates—and labor-market outcomes.

A number of initiatives across the country promote this movement to provide industry-themed pathways that bring together rigorous academic learning, technical education, and work-based learning to prepare students for postsecondary education and careers. In addition to PAI, these include Linked Learning in California; the National Academy Foundation; the College & Career Academy Support Network, or CASN, at the University of California, Berkeley; and the National Career Academy Coalition.

PAI also serves as a hub for the Ford Next Generation Learning, or NGL, which goes a step further by engaging all sectors of the community (employers, civic organizations, and postsecondary institutions) in aligning resources to transform secondary schools and the workforce development system.

Ford NGL’s mobilization of community resources is particularly effective in addressing a challenge the article identifies: providing students with intensive work-based learning experiences. In Nashville, Tenn., a Ford NGL community where all the comprehensive high schools have been transformed into academies, an ongoing structure, Alignment Nashville, ensures the participation of employers, easing the task of securing and coordinating work-based learning opportunities.

Alignment of academy pathways with economic-development needs also avoids the tracking that the Education Trust is rightly concerned about, assuring that all students are prepared for high-wage, high-skill careers.

Ilene Kantrov

Director, Pathways to College and Careers

Learning and Teaching Division

Education Development Center Inc.

Waltham, Mass.

EDC is a partner in Ford’s Next Generation Learning initiative and has collaborated with PAI, CASN, and ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career, which supports Linked Learning. EDC is also a member of the National Career Academy Coalition.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2013 edition of Education Week as Alternative-Pathways Story Omitted Career Academy Model

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