Pulaski County high school career academies advance despite pandemic, national leader says


A network of professional academies being established at public high schools in Pulaski County will reach a milestone today when the network – the academies of central Arkansas – is officially designated as the Ford Next Generation learning community. .

The title award ceremony for the initiative – which began at the planning stage in 2018 and continues in various stages of development – will take place today at 8 a.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. The Academies of Central Arkansas will join the ranks of more than 40 Ford Next Generation Learning initiatives nationwide and in the UK.

Cheryl Carrier of Dearborn, Michigan, executive director of the Ford Next Generation Learning initiative, and members of her team who have guided the Pulaski County school program planners, will present the recognition to an audience of school district leaders, local businesses and chambers of commerce as well as Governor Asa Hutchinson.

On Wednesday, Carrier and his colleagues visited Southwest High and Parkview High in the Little Rock School District to see the status of their academies. The team will visit Sylvan Hills High in the Pulaski County Special School District later today. The North Little Rock and Jacksonville / North Pulaski school districts also participate in the network formed under the direction of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Carrier said she was impressed with Pulaski County’s effort, noting that planning for the career academy began before the covid-19 pandemic, “and not only did they persevere during the pandemic, but they move the needle “.

Gallery: Ford Next Generation Learning Tour

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Different high schools are in different stages of implementing their academies, with Jacksonville High currently offering career academy courses for freshmen, sophomores and juniors, while other campuses are starting. this year with a freshman academy and accompanying freshman seminar, during which students examine their interests and select career paths and courses for the next year and beyond.

“Schools are at different stages, and that’s OK,” Carrier said. “They have the right structures and the right processes to make it their own. They do the right things. There are some things that you can’t leave out, like the main scheduling. You have to be able to schedule them. teachers to provide the You have to do professional development. They do. They take that model and its important principles and make it their own.

The first stop on Wednesday’s visit to Little Rock Southwest High, which has 2,100 students, was the Southwest High Bank and Store, operated in the lobby of the new high school in partnership with First National Bank. Student scrutineers and managers work under the guidance of Vocational and Technical Teacher Tashenia McMillan to learn about budgets, deposits, savings, credit, bookkeeping and office management.

Banking and accounting, robotics, marketing, and mobile app development are some of the career paths that make up the Southwest Academy of Business and Computer Science.

Southwest’s other two academies are Aerospace and Medical Sciences, and Leadership and Public Service. Each of these encompasses several career paths such as law and leadership, educator preparation, drone technology, biomedical sciences, and sports medicine.

Southwest High Principal Marvin Burton guided visitors through the school’s robotics lab, computer-assisted drawing room, and art rooms with 3D printers, as well as the media center, l auditorium, sports arena and school dance studio.

“If there’s one word I can take away from being a part of Ford Next Generation Learning, it’s ‘focus’,” said Burton. “It gives our kids a reason to be here. And you can hear the conversations of our kids, especially the 10th graders in academies such as the Aerospace and Medical Academy. You can hear their conversations. about what they might want to become and how they can use what they learn. There is a big difference. “

Carrier told Burton and his team, including Academy coach Shanda Macon, that their hard work, as evidenced by major timelines, parent communication strategies and other records “is a treasure trove “.

Burton responded that the faculty effort had to do with Southwest High’s griffin mascot.

“Mythological griffins are the keepers of precious jewels,” he said. “There is nothing more precious than our students.”

“We’re all in it,” he said. “We don’t do this just by name. We do it because we want to make a difference for our students” who come from a part of town and demographics that lead some people to believe students can’t to succeed.

The school’s ultimate goal is to provide students with the resources and interventions that will allow them to do and be what they want, he said.

Parkview High School, which has 1,000 students, this year established the Introductory Academy for first-year students and recently established the career paths associated with the school’s two academies.

Those academies are health and applied sciences, and applied arts and design, Brittany Crayton told executives at Ford Next General Learning.

Planned career paths include mental and behavioral health, sports science and physiology, and environmental and industrial sciences. Still others will focus on how student artists can build a career out of their work. These pathways include theater arts and film, arts and industry, performance and music production, dance and human kinetics, and visual arts and applied design.

Crayton, a 2010 Parkview graduate and former math teacher, described the school as an old building with a history of success and full of charm and charisma.

Crayton said she anticipates Parkview will change its practice in recent years to require students to audition for enrollment. Instead, she said, the school can move on to asking students applying to the school to do interviews and showcase their talents, but in a way that will allow ninth graders in the course of a school year to select career paths for years 10 to 12.

“We have a great school. We don’t want to recreate the wheel. We want to improve on what we’re already doing,” Crayton said.

Student Kria Bell (left to right) and finance and accounting professor Tashenia McMillian speak to Cheryl Carrier, executive director of Ford Next Generation Learning, the Little Rock Southwest High School Student Store and Bank at the ‘a visit to the school on Wednesday. More photos on arkansasonline.com/107tour/. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Staci Vandagriff)


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