Opinion
School Choice & Charters Letter to the Editor

Career-Themed Academies Provide ‘21st-Century Skills’

March 30, 2009 1 min read
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To the Editor:

The “flak” over 21st-century skills creates a needless dividing line that has already been successfully crossed (“Backers of ‘21st-Century Skills’ Take Flak,” March 4, 2009). Across the country, students in career-themed academies are engaging in project-based learning and experiencing paid internships that combine both academic-content knowledge and work-skills training. Projects that are based on industry-authentic problems and behaviors lead to 21st-century-skill attainment practiced in the internships.

There are hundreds of such academies in the United States, with results demonstrated in a recent MDRC study that found a significant earnings impact linked to career-awareness activities and work internships during high school. The study groups included low-income communities of the type discussed in your article. Furthermore, these academies are graduating students at a significantly higher rate than their nonacademy peers. Academy students take college-preparatory courses augmented with career-oriented courses.

The career-academy model can address 21st-century skills without sacrificing academic rigor. What is needed now is a more robust approach to assessment beyond testing. The National Academy Foundation is piloting a combination of tests and independently evaluated project portfolios that holds great promise for providing a more complete picture of student knowledge and skills.

Andrew Rothstein

Senior Director, Curriculum and Academics

National Academy Foundation

New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 2009 edition of Education Week as Career-Themed Academies Provide ‘21st-Century Skills’

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