Amazon High School? The Idea Showed Up In Albany’s Bid for Retailer’s HQ

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 30, 2018 2 min read
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Deep within the bid that Albany, N.Y. submitted to host retail giant’s new headquarters comes this provocative idea: Amazon High School, the Albany Times Union reported.

“We will ensure that Amazon can shape local school and university curricula to meet your future workforce needs—starting with the University at Albany Engineering program and the potential for Amazon High School,” officials wrote in the bid, which was written by the Center for Economic Growth on behalf of the Tech Valley, made up of 15 districts surrounding New York’s Capital Region.

There is no evidence that this was ever more than a pie-in-the-sky addition to Albany’s proposal, which ended up not making the cut of 20 finalists announced in January for the coveted headquarters. In the two brief mentions in the document, the school is written about in the conditional. There are no details fleshing out what such a high school might look like, nor did Albany include letters of support from the school system.

But in a sense it crystallizes a lot of the hopes and fears that are characterizing an increasingly active debate about schools and the workforce. Many scholars and educators are fretting about K-12 education’s role in preparing students for a rapidly changing workforce, and uncertainties about whether businesses can and should be in mix shaping solutions. (Just today, my colleague Catherine Gewertz published a fabulous story about a Minnesota district that partners with 200 businesses to give students a taste of their career opportunities.)

Here at Education Week we’ve also written about an emerging trend to link career and technical education programs with labor and workfroce data. And the ideas of businesses actively shaping curricula is controversial—but it’s not unheard of. In Switzerland, a country often held up as a model for the strength and flexibility of its career-preparation programs, businesses and their professional associations are deeply involved in the drafting of curriculum.

In the United States, there is still a lot of distrust among educators about business. That’s in no small part due to the onslought of tech products, both good and bad, proffered by for-profit firms; questions about student privacy linked to those products; and longstanding complaints about the quality and utility of textbooks and standardized tests put out by traditional publishers, who still dominate the curriculum scene.

So I don’t know how an Amazon High School might be received. But the comments section is open, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. How would you shape such a high school? Or is this a terrible idea? Weigh in below.

Photo: The new Amazon Fulfillment Center in Sacramento, Calif.—AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.