|Project Tomorrow (formerly known as NetDay) would like you to know that the information and links on this page may be outdated.|
Career Academies Model Curriculum
Pomona, CA -- The Village Academy High School at Indian Hill in Pomona, California is an experiment in renewal. Housed in a converted shopping mall, this public high school provides willing students a personalized learning plan, a high tech environment, and real work experience. The Academy is a new educational paradigm, blending challenging courses, work opportunities, and a community of support to motivate students. The "lessons learned" in this school will improve the learning experience for all of the district's 34,000 students.
"This is not an exercise to see if we can help 120 children," says Raymond G. Harder, Director of the Technology and Media Academy. "This is a proving ground to see what works, to revitalize the local economy, and to scale it up to the other 34,000 [students]."
According to Cindy Walkenbach, Director of Academy Coordination, the majority of students applied because they wanted to learn about technology and plan to go to college. Their parents overwhelmingly listed the smaller environment as the motivation. A new freshman class will be added each year, reaching a total of 500 students in four years.
When the Village partnered with the local community college, they shared the cost for new computers. The Academy uses them during the day and the community college has access to the facilities for evening classes. State-of-the-art conference facilities create their own revenue stream to support and sustain technology while giving students high-tech work experience in supporting and maintaining the equipment. The high school has proven their value to high tech partners such as Apple, Compaq, Cisco, AT&T, and CompUSA.
A Challenging Curriculum
"Many kids don't see the connection between what they're doing in school and the outside world," says Walkenbach. "By delivering academic work in the context of a career, they understand the value of what they are learning. It makes more sense to them. We use a lot of project-based, integrated, and applied curriculum."
The curriculum meets all state standards and prepares students for the California High School Exit Exam. Electives offer challenging and often technical classes based on the four career areas of the Academy. To give students a head start on professional certifications and college credits, the curriculum is articulated with vocational, adult, and higher education programs. In addition, each student must complete an apprenticeship and a paid internship based on their Academy "major."
When students graduate, they will have the experience and technical skills to pursue further education and find skilled jobs to support themselves. Village at Indian Hill utilizes their skilled student workforce to attract businesses back to the community as well.
All of the Academy teachers are credentialed and have non-academic work experience in one of the career fields. For example, the biology teacher worked in the medical care field, and a math teacher has 25 years of business experience. Each teacher is responsible for developing the learning plan for a group of students. Technology can provide test data and feedback to identify learning gaps, but teachers provide the care and guidance to help students address those gaps and develop plans for the future.
Teachers work in interdisciplinary teams to support students. They have common planning time to discuss strategies for infusing English and math into all courses, and to develop the interdisciplinary projects that are a hallmark of the school's curriculum.
According to Walkenbach: "Right now we're creating a matrix to show the classes offered by each entity in the four career majors. Once we see what's in place and analyze the skills taught, we'll be able to fill in the gaps with new classes and experiences. This will ensure that students can receive meaningful certifications, be well-prepared for entry-level jobs, and continue with post-secondary education."
For Harder and Walkenbach, success at the Academy Village means potential success for all children in the district. They envision an academy at each of the four corners of the town and academy foundation courses based on career areas in all of the schools. Motivated students with working skills will be an asset to the community and a source of renewal.