In Cabell County Schools, we are taking a significantly different approach to training our students to be college and career ready by the time they walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma. Beginning Fall 2016, all middle school students will take a daily course entitled “Career Literacy.” In this course, students will learn about the many professional and technical occupations associated with each of the sixteen career clusters. This course does not replace their language arts course, but uses the skills of reading informational text, writing for technical accuracy, speaking, listening, and analyzing data to learn about the extensive range of careers available in every cluster. It will truly be a real-life application of the skills they acquire in their language arts course.
In Fall 2017, Cabell County Schools will implement wall-to-wall academies in each high school, including the Career Technology Center. Career academies, first started in Philadelphia more than forty years ago, are a proven model for college and career readiness. To-date, we’ve had academies at each school, but enrollment was voluntary and limited. With the wall-to-wall academy structure, all students will be asked to select an academy which matches their personal interests in the fall of their freshman year. This academy will be their smaller learning community for grades 10 – 12. It is important to note that we are not asking students to commit to a career as a tenth grader. Rather, we are asking them, through a survey of their talents, to select an academy that matches their interests. It may become their chosen career after graduation, or even 15-20 years later, or it may be an area that is an enjoyable hobby later in life.
Each high school will have 3-4 academies with various strands of interests from which students may choose. Core teachers in math, English, science and social studies will be grouped by academies so they can relate many of their lessons to the focus of that academy. For instance, a science teacher in the Health Science Academy might guide students through a forensic analysis of the deaths of Romeo and Juliet which corresponds to an English lesson. At the heart of career academies is close relationships with a smaller number of teachers combined with rigorous and relevant learning in every course.
Throughout the country, the most successful career academies have complete and total support of the business community. Not only are internships available to students but current, updated training for educators. Career academies are focused around providing students with industry standard skills, experience, and, ultimately, certifications. Our goal is for Cabell County students will graduate with a diploma plus something else.
It is important to understand that career academies are an enhancement, not a replacement of the student’s high school experience. Students will still be able to determine electives, take Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses, and participate in the arts.
If you were a member of the marching band in high school, you probably have fond memories of band camps, Friday night football games, and that piece of music you worked tirelessly to master. Aren’t all students deserving of a “band kid experience?” That is exactly what our academies hope to achieve – a unique, personalized experience for every student to better our community.