Designing a multidisciplinary integrated curriculum is a primary focus of Academies in WCCUSD. The goal of Integrated Projects is to increase student learning and engagement by having students tackle real-world problems that require mastery of content area knowledge and skills. Research has shown that students are more motivated to learn when they need to acquire knowledge in order to accomplish a complex task or project. “One of the most powerful strategies teachers can use to make learning relevant is to place academics within the context of issues and problems from the world of work” (Designing a Multidisciplinary Integrated Curriculum: A Practical Manual, ConnectEd, http://www.connectedcalifornia.org/curriculum/integrated_units).
Producing a successful integrated project or unit starts with the Six A’s:
Academic and Technical Rigor – Projects are designed to address key learning standards identified by the school or district.
Authenticity – Projects use a real-world context (e.g., community and workplace problems) and address issues that matter to the students.
Applied Learning – Projects engage students in solving problems calling for competencies expected in high-performance work organizations.
Active Exploration – Projects extend beyond the classroom by connecting to internships, field-based investigations, and community explorations.
Adult Connections – Projects connect students with adult mentors and coaches from the wider community.
Assessment Practices – Projects involve students in regular performance-based exhibitions and assessments of their work; evaluation criteria reflect personal, school, and real-world standards of performance.
ConnectEd, our partner in developing quality career pathways has outlined a design process offered to educators working towards integrated projects and/or integrated units of instruction. Their design process features the following steps:
Identify Themes Through Curriculum Mapping
Decide on the Topic of the Integrated Unit
Craft the Essential Question
Identify Topical or Key Questions
Review and Revise the Curriculum Map
Set the Learning Scenario
Establish Student Assessments
Check Alignment with Standards
Write Lesson Plans
Evaluate the Unit
Integrated Unit Logistics
The complete manual is available for download and covers each design step in detail. Go to http://www.connectedcalifornia.org/curriculum/integrated_units to download the complete .PDF file.
Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that engages students with Real-World problems and requires mastery of content area knowledge and skills. PBL in the context of Linked Learning Pathways or Academies also strives for integrated CTE and core academic curriculum and standards around Integrated Projects. The PBL Design process is a tool used by Academy Teams to create standards-based, real-world, integrated projects. The information provided below is only an overview of the PBL process. There exists a wealth of information and resources for each step of the project design process at http://pbl-online.org, and also through the Buck Institute of Education http://www.bie.org.
What is Project Based Learning?
Project Based Learning (PBL) is an inquiry based process for teaching and learning. In PBL, students focus on a complex question or problem, then answer the question or solve the problem through a collaborative process of investigation over an extended period of time. Projects often are used to investigate authentic issues and topics found outside of school. During the inquiry process, students learn content, information, and facts necessary to draw conclusions about the question. Students also learn valuable skills and habits of mind during the process.
Why should I use Project Based Learning?
PBL is extremely effective as a method for engaging students in their learning. With engagement comes focus, discipline, and mastery of academic content. Further, students have the opportunity to work on problems and issues relevant to their lives, as well as learn vital work and life skills necessary to their success in school or in the work world.
PBL Design Principles (http://pbl-online.org)
Design Principle #1: Begin with the End in Mind
Develop a Project Idea
Decide the Scope of the Project
Incorporate Simultaneous Outcomes
Work from Project Design Criteria
Create the Optimal Learning Environment
Design Principle #2: Craft the Driving Question, also known as the Essential Question
Drives the Project
Captures a Project Theme or a “big idea”
Points Students Toward Mastering Content and Skills that Enable them to Answer the Question
Align the Products or Performances for the Project with the Outcomes
Know what to Assess – Establish Criteria to Assess each Product and Performance
Create Rubrics for the Project
Design Principle #4: Map the Project
Organize Tasks and Activities
Decide How to Launch the Project
Draw a Storyboard
Design Principle #5: Manage the Process
Share Project Goals with Students
Use Problem-solving Tools
Use Checkpoints and Milestones
Plan for Evaluation and Reflection
Integrated curriculum projects or units utilize both formative and summative assessments, as well as student products and culminating events. Teacher teams have found it critical to use some common assessment strategies in order to deliver an effective, engaging project.
The following section features explanations and ideas around assessments for integrated projects. (Designing a Multidisciplinary Integrated Curriculum: A Practical Manual, ConnectEd, http://www.connectedcalifornia.org/curriculum/integrated_units):
Integrated curriculum units offer teachers many opportunities to move beyond traditional paper- and- pencil tests. Teacher teams can design engaging and challenging performance-based formative and summative student assessments that are well matched to authentic teaching strategies. To create these assessments, it is valuable to work backwards. Begin thinking about the summative Culminating Event and then design the formative student work products that demonstrate students’ learning and help them prepare for it.
Summative Evaluation: The Culminating Event
The Culminating Event is the place where students summarize and present their conclusions about the Essential Question, synthesizing their learning and research across all of the disciplines in the unit. At the Culminating Event, teachers, community representatives, and industry partners can also assess and evaluate student learning in relation to many of the discipline-specific content standards that were the basis for the Key Questions. This summative evaluation is an ideal opportunity for students to display their higher-order thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, effective teamwork, written and oral communication skills, and ability to integrate and apply knowledge gained across several academic and technical disciplines.
The following are some considerations that have helped teachers design effective and memorable Culminating Events:
Encourage students to link their presentations to a real-world setting, ideally in the workplace; the setting will further reinforce career development goals identified for the curriculum unit.
Involve the community and industry partners; participation at the Culminating Event will reinforce community and industry support for innovative high school improvement strategies and career-themed education.
Allow students to present in groups or individually, depending on their strengths and learning styles; use these alternatives as a way for students at all achievement levels to participate.
Ask students to reflect on what they have learned and share their observations; explicitly tie results of these meta-cognitive activities back to the academic and technical content standards that were used to design the curriculum unit.
The following are several possible formats for a Culminating Event:
Create and deliver a PowerPoint presentation.
Hold a Science Fair with students presenting tri-folds and visual displays.
Invite parents to view presentations (PowerPoint or tri-folds) at a Back-to-School night.
Demonstrate a lesson or activity to industry partners, a community group, or a municipal agency.
Develop a practical manual addressing the topic of the unit and proposing a resolution or plan of action.
Create a website focused on answering the Essential Question.
Hold a debate on the Essential Question.
Develop policies and procedures that deal with the topic of the unit.
Formative Evaluation: Student Work Products for Feedback and Assessment
Integrated curriculum units also lend themselves to a variety of performance-based and standard formative assessments. Teachers can use these assessments to give students ongoing performance feedback and also to avoid having too much of a semester’s final grade rest on a single Culminating Event. This is particularly important as many of the Culminating Event formats rely on group activities and presentations and may include limited opportunities to assess and provide feedback to individual students.
The following are several examples of work products that help groups of students prepare for the Culminating Event and offer opportunities for formative feedback to individuals and groups.
• A written project outline, work plan, and schedule, or a classroom presentation on the team’s project objectives and work plan.
• A selection of readings (with an annotated bibliography) that individuals or teams recommend for outside reviewers who will later evaluate the Culminating Event.
• A scoring rubric for outside evaluators to use in grading the team’s Culminating Event.
• A research paper on one of the Key Questions addressed in a specific discipline.
• A set of drawings, designs, graphic representations, or a photographic portfolio related to the Essential Question or one of the Key Questions.
Samples of Integrated Units Showing Formative and Summative Assessments (Student Work Products and Culminating Events)
The following are two examples of assessments for integrated units currently in place in high schools and a third hypothetical example.
• Art and English—Create business cards and brochures for an insurance company.
• English—Read excerpts from Shattered Air by Robert Madgic (about a tragedy at Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome) and debate risky behaviors.
• Algebra—Calculate entries for actuarial tables and mortality rates for leading causes of death.
• History and English—Explore the history of medical insurance and write an expository essay on the issue of universal health insurance.
• Geography and English—Research and write about the geographical distribution of genetically linked diseases.
• Science—Chart biological pedigrees.
• Information Technology—Use appropriate computer software to prepare written reports, brochures, statistical tables, and presentations.
• World Languages and English—Research foreign insurance and medical information and write up results in both English and another language.
• Health Science and English—Research medical insurance and risky behaviors and write up research results.
• Physical Education—Create a Wellness Program/Prevention Plan for an insurance company.
Culminating Event: Small groups of students form their own insurance company. They prepare Science Fair tri-fold presentations where they present their insurance companies’ programs and policies, including decisions about insuring individuals who engage in risky behaviors. Community healthcare professionals use a rubric designed with student input to grade the student presentations.
Topic: Cultural Differences in Healthcare
Unit Title: Second Opinion
Essential Question How can we ensure the safety and effectiveness of complementary and alternative medical practices?
Learning Scenario: Excerpt from The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, (a book by Anne Fadiman contrasting Hmong and Western medicine’s interpretations and responses to epilepsy)
• Art, English, and Health Science—Design the lesson plan format and content for a lesson on cultural competency.
• English—Read an excerpt from The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down; complete an expository writing assignment.
• Mathematics and Chemistry—Measure the bond angles of molecular compounds created in chemistry class.
• History—Write the script for an “elevator pitch” to a physician about why he or she should be culturally sensitive to patients from different countries.
• Geography and English—Research and write an expository essay about alternative healing practices, including their distribution and how they are spread around the world.
• Chemistry—Create a model of the molecular structures of medicines and research the differences in drugs.
• Computers—Provide web-based research support for all classes included in the curriculum unit.
• World Language—Research and write about healing practices in Spanish-speaking countries.
• Health Science and English—Study and write an essay about cultural difference in healing practices.
• Physical Education and English—Research and write about cultural differences in levels of and attitudes toward physical activity.
Culminating Event: Students present a culturally competent lesson plan to representatives from various state agencies and professional organizations. These individuals use a scoring rubric designed with student input to assess the lesson plan.
Topic: The Environment and Health
Unit Title: Save the Planet; Save Yourself
Essential Question How can we preserve the environment and enhance the quality of life for future generations?
Learning Scenario: Profile of a physician who finds a cure for an environmental illness
• English and Art—Create a brochure that teaches members of the community about “eco-friendly” habits and their health benefits.
• Mathematics (statistics)—Survey students about their attitudes toward environmental issues; compile results and interpret the data.
• History—Evaluate and write about the environmental quality of life across historical periods.
• Geography—Research and present findings to the class about environmental standards in developing countries.
• Science and English—Research and write about air and water pollution and acid rain, and their effects.
• Information Technology—Build a website on environmental issues.
• World Language—Research environmental issues in Spanish-speaking countries.
• Health Science—Research technological advances in the medical field and their impact on the environment.
• Physical Education and Biology—Study pollution in the air and how it affects the respiratory and cardiovascular systems during exercise.
Culminating Project: Create a website that focuses on environmental and health issues.
Integrating Service Learning
The career-themed nature of integrated curricula and PBL offers an opportunity to add relevance to the learner. Another layer can still be included in project design, and that is Service Learning. Service Learning is a District-wide requirement for graduation. The basic concept of service learning is for the students to perform a service to their community, that is tied to the knowledge and skill of a content area. Within the Academies, our career-foci align very well with service learning, PBL, and integrated projects. Academies have been authorized by WCCUSD to manage the service learning requirements of their students.
As your team develops projects and units, consider this question….What Service can our students provide to the community within this project? If the service offered can be tied to classroom instruction, you have the needed elements for service learning credit.
Some examples of service learning integration:
Technology Project – Students repair PC systems from the community as part of a project on digital literacy.
Health Project – Students perform blood pressure and BMI tests on community members while doing a project on fitness and health levels.
Construction Project – Students design and build furniture to be used in local schools.
Section XI – Advisory Boards
(From Partnership Guide for Career Academies, CASN, UC Berkeley, 2010, http://casn.berkeley.edu/resources.php)
Here’s a quick list of the roles employer and college representatives (within the context of Advisory Boards) usually play in a California Partnership Academy:
• Advisory Board (aka Steering Committee) member
• Input on technical curriculum
• Donations of equipment, curricular materials
• Teacher externships
• Host for meetings, activities, graduation ceremony
• Speakers, field trips for sophomores
• Job shadowing for sophomores &/or juniors
• Mentors for juniors
• Work internships/ community service for junior grads, seniors
Academy Advisory Boards
The Advisory Board (aka Steering Committee) is the hub for all these roles. This is generally comprised of at least one district and high school administrator, the Academy Lead Teacher and perhaps the whole teacher team, a counselor, representatives from local companies in the academy career field, representatives from local community/ four-year/ technical colleges, perhaps a community-based organization that plays a role as an intermediary in bringing the high school and community together (e.g., a Chamber of Commerce, service organization, or business-education alliance) and perhaps a parent and/or student or two.
Some Boards have Executive Committees that meet periodically, generally a couple times per year. This Board has corporate leaders, post secondary chancellors or deans, presidents of local community-based organizations, government representatives, and the superintendent or his or her representative. In the fall they review plans for the academy; in the spring they review progress and student achievement.
If there is no Executive Committee, the general Board acts in this role, generally meeting quarterly or so and forming smaller task forces to work on components needing attention between the general meetings. For example, one task force might work on lining up speakers and field trip sites for sophomores, another on finding job shadowing positions and mentors for juniors, another on needed equipment and curricular materials, and so on.
If a high school has more than one academy, there is generally one Advisory Board for each career field, and should there be academies in the same career field in other high schools in the district, it plays this role for them as well. This is so that one academy doesn’t find itself competing with another from the same district for support from employers or colleges. Such competition makes it difficult for these organizations to know where to place their support and can erode their involvement.
If there is more than one Academy/ Advisory Board in the district, there is often a district-wide Board that brings representatives of them together. This allows academies to learn from each other and opportunities for joint support at the district level. Superintendents can often be quite effective if they play a role in these efforts.
Although the first meeting usually takes place on the high school campus, later meetings are often held at the members’ facilities, perhaps rotating through the roster of members. The first meeting may be chaired by the principal or lead teacher, but subsequent meetings are often chaired by one of the partners, with agendas developed jointly by the committee at the conclusion of each meeting. A survey at the first meeting can determine the most convenient time for meetings for the majority of the group.
Although there is a natural inclination for academies to seek financial support from their community, this can be counterproductive and is usually not the greatest need. Rather what is most needed is peoples’ time and expertise. Since 80% of school budgets is generally spent on personnel anyway, even if funds are provided they usually go primarily toward staffing. Volunteers who provide their time as Board members, speakers, field trip hosts, mentors, and internship supervisors, and who share their expertise on needed career field training, equipment, and instructional materials are a gold mine. And many enjoy serving in this role. It can be disarming for a company to be told the academy is not seeking funding from it.
Good communication is essential to forming and maintaining effective advisory boards. Someone at the high school, often an administrator or the lead teacher or a secretary who takes on this role, needs to be made the liaison and consistent point of contact. Likewise it is often possible to establish consistent contacts at companies and colleges. Since there are often differences in cultures and terminology between educators and business people, and related mistrust, establishing dependable communication and allowing learning to go on over time is essential.
It is also important for an academy to find ways to say thank you for the support of its partners. This can be done at academy events, but also via newsletters or other media that recognize the contributions of employers and colleges. Often the most effective form of appreciation is letters written by students themselves. Helping students is something almost everyone identifies with and the core of what motivates partners to become involved in academies.
• Chair: Employer; or co-led, school leader/ partner
• Roles and Responsibilities
• Joint decision-making, with school/ district
• Variety of resources, meeting the 100% match
• People’s volunteer time and expertise
• Frequency—bi-monthly, quarterly
• Where—high school, company, college, rotating
• Agendas—in advance, with outcomes & times
• Between meeting task forces (2-4 members)
• Technical Curriculum
• Teacher Externships
• Facilities/ Equipment/ Materials
• Speakers/ Field Trips
• Additional Resources
• Maintain communication & say thanks
• An established academy liaison
• Thank-you notes (especially from students)
• Academy events
• Newsletter/ other media
15 Steps To Building And Maintaining A Large
Partner Base For A Career Academy*
The following was originally developed by Anne Scott, Principal, and Larry Stewart, Academy Director, Highland Energy/ Environmental Technology Academy, in Bakersfield, CA. It has been adapted by CASN staff and provides a more in-depth discussion of how to build partnerships in an academy.
Step 1: Define your potential partners
Step 2: Recruit your first few partners
Step 3: Organize and use your advisory board
Step 4: Define the partners' roles and responsibilities
Step 5: Develop an activities calendar for the semester/year
Step 6: Recruit classroom speakers
Step 7: Recruit field trip sites
Step 8: Recruit mentors
Step 9: Develop formal partnerships
Step 10: Make your local college a partner
Step 11: View companies and colleges, not individuals, as partners
* The terms “advisory board” and “steering committee” are used interchangeably.
STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR POTENTIAL PARTNERS
Assemble your academy team (teachers, counselors, administrators) and develop answers to the questions below. This will take some research.
How do you define your industry? Keep your definition as broad as possible to include lots of business partners.
What are the types of companies/agencies that are part of this industry?
What are some leading companies in your city/county associated with this industry?
What associations serve these companies/agencies?
What local college programs are associated with this industry?
Who do you know who is associated with this industry (parents, friends, school board members, current school business partners in other fields)?
STEP 2: RECRUIT YOUR FIRST FEW PARTNERS
Before a business or college commits itself to providing assistance to an academy it is often necessary to obtain the approval of a high-ranking executive. This individual will then, more than likely, assign another person to assume primary responsibility for the program, who may in turn select others or request volunteers for particular assignments (e.g., advisory committee members, mentors, speakers, coordinators of internships).
Organize an academy team that includes administrators, faculty and counselors to recruit partners. Hopefully some will have been identified in the grant application, but begin from wherever you are.
It is important that administrators, including the principal and even the superintendent, be involved with partner recruitment. The higher the level of contact from the school the likelier you will be taken seriously. Provide release time for faculty to help plan the recruitment process and to make visits to industry sites. If this activity occurs during the summer, provide faculty stipends.
Design and produce printed materials that describe your academy. Print lots of these brochures so that you can distribute them wherever and whenever you talk to people about your academy. Develop a plan that assigns recruitment of specific potential business partners to members of your academy team. Many hands make light work.
Define the partner as a company or college, not an individual. Pick the top ten partners you would like to have. Ask each member of the team if they have a personal contact that they can make in any of these. Make phone contacts and set up appointments to personally explain your academy. CEOs and other industry representatives expect to be contacted by an administrator if you are calling cold.
Invite the potential partner to be a member of the academy's advisory committee that will make the decisions regarding curriculum, budget, calendar, activities, and so on. Stress how your academy will provide students with knowledge about the industry and encouragement to enter the industry.
STEP 3: ORGANIZE AND USE YOUR ADVISORY BOARD
You need to include academy faculty, counselors, administrators, secretary, business partners and college representatives. The business partner determines the employee(s) who will represent it on the steering committee.
Hold an organizational meeting to determine place, time and frequency of meetings and who will serve as chair. Set up a steering committee calendar for the year. Example: quarterly meetings, rotating among the high school, supporting companies, and the local community college, 7-9 a.m., with a continental breakfast and the host serving as chair.
Develop a process to keep the steering committee members informed. One option is to buy secretarial time out of your grant or have the school provide secretarial time. The secretary can take minutes and mail them to members, send reminder notices, develop the agenda in consultation with the academy director and meeting host, handle phone calls and emails from members.
Define the responsibilities to be handled by the steering committee. The steering committee members will be busy people. Make sure that steering committee meetings are productive. Use the expertise of your steering committee members where it best applies. For example, don’t focus on small decisions better left to administrators or teachers. Establish the topics that will be brought before the committee for review and approval.
Example: Review technical course sequence, identify possible dual enrollment subjects, identify/ provide needed equipment, plan speakers and field trips, identify mentors, approve the annual budget, recruit additional partners, evaluate completed activities (e.g., speaker program, summer internships), solve problems that develop.
Provide time for brainstorming during your steering committee meeting.
STEP 4: DEFINE THE PARTNERS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Partners include companies, public agencies, colleges and individuals employed in the industry. The advisory board needs to define what you need from employers and colleges beyond those serving on the steering committee. As your academy develops, your goal should be to expand the partner base to include a variety of resource people who can assist in all aspects of the program.
We quickly learned that individuals who volunteer as partners have varied talents to share with students. Our job is to match those talents with our needs. One partner may be willing to come to the classroom one day and talk about his job. Another partner may volunteer to set up a field trip at her business. A trio of business partners may agree to work together and mentor some students.
We ask our partners to provide us with one field trip site each year which will give 50 sophomore or junior students a half or whole day tour/ experience. If that is difficult to do, we ask that they take a smaller group of students. If that is impossible, we ask that they provide a classroom speaker.
We ask that our company partners provide us with opportunities to recruit mentors and that the mentors be able to use work time to work with our students.
We never ask for money. In our initial presentation, we explain that we are asking for a more valuable contribution: the time and talents of individuals. However, we do get contributions of money and meals while on field trips. This occurs when a partner wants to do something with our academy students and realizes that the school doesn't have the resources to accomplish the task.
STEP 5: DEVELOP AN ACTIVITIES CALENDAR
Partners are wonderful, but if you recruit lots of talented individuals who want to work with your students, you need to develop a calendar to organize all the academy activities. We develop and print a calendar each semester. We schedule monthly field trips, classroom activities, mentor activities, due dates for semester projects, parent meetings, student celebrations, and industry events.
The academy calendar is developed by the academy faculty. Much of the work on it is done during the summer when the teachers contact partners and set up field trips and classroom activities for the coming year. Our academy teachers are each paid a $1,000 summer stipend for academy work. They also schedule evening meetings with parents and quarterly celebrations of student achievement.
Work on the calendar is continuous because dates get changed and new opportunities emerge. It is on the computer and updated and printed frequently to reflect the changes.
STEP 6: RECRUIT CLASSROOM SPEAKERS
Partners can bring the industry and higher education to the classroom. We block our academy classes so that all sophomores or all juniors may come together for a presentation. Our academy headquarters is in one building with a large classroom that can hold 50 students. All our math classes are conducted here. The classroom is adjacent to two large science labs that are also used by the academy for the academy technology and applied physics classes. The academy also has access to computer labs. This classroom complex has evolved in response to the varied activities we pursue in the academy.
What types of classroom activities do partners provide? They may provide general information about their industry, support for the academic disciplines taught within the academy, or offer specialized training. Ideas for classroom presentations frequently come from the steering committee's partners. Academy team members are always alert to new possibilities, and we find that ideas often emerge when we're having informal discussions at industry functions or on field trips or working with mentors. Often, a partner will recommend that we contact a colleague who has particular expertise that can be shared.
How often do you schedule business partners in the classroom? We began by trying to schedule a classroom presentation every two weeks. This schedule, coupled with a monthly field trip, quarterly celebration of student accomplishments, group research projects, and the need to teach a college prep curriculum in English, math, and biology to students who had previously been general level, exhausted our teachers. We are now more flexible about classroom presentations, and schedule them whenever they seem appropriate.
STEP 7: RECRUIT FIELD TRIP SITES
The monthly field trip experience has been a major component in the success of our academy. Approximately seven field trips are provided for students each year.
How do you organize the field trips? During the summer academy teachers meet and outline a tentative calendar of field trips related to topics that the students will be studying during the year. Each teacher volunteers to organize specific trips. That teacher is responsible for contacting the business partner and arranging the date, place, and time of a trip. Our academy secretary schedules school buses to transport the students. Transportation costs are funded through the CPA grant. A majority of our students are on the free/reduced lunch program, and the school cafeteria provides free sack lunches for those students. The grant pays for sack lunches for the other students. Two academy teachers or one teacher and an administrator or counselor go on each field trip. Because of block scheduling, only one substitute has to be hired to cover two academy teachers. Substitute costs are budgeted through the grant. All counselors and administrators are encouraged to participate in one field trip each year.
The school has obtained signed parent permission forms that cover all academy activities during the school year. Students must wear their academy white polo shirts on the field trip. To participate in a field trip students must be in good standing in the class which means no recent attendance cuts or discipline referrals.
What is the partner's role for a field trip? Business or college partners provide activities for students at the site. This may include presentations, tours, demonstrations, and hands on opportunities. We go with what the partner wants to provide. Last year we provided eight field trips for our sophomores.
STEP 8: RECRUIT MENTORS
The Career Academy guidelines call for adult mentors at the junior year. Recruiting partners as mentors has been our greatest challenge. The academy team used the mentor materials presented at the state Career Academy conference and found them extremely helpful. However, convincing a business partner that he wanted to mentor a student has been much more difficult than organizing classroom presentations or field trips.
How do you recruit business partners as mentors? The team adapted materials from the CASN Mentor Handbook for Career Academies. An academy mentor information package was developed and printed. The teachers tried to set up mentor presentations during the summer; however, companies were reluctant to schedule such presentations then because of vacations.
We solved our mentor recruitment problem by enlisting the services of a retired district administrator who took on the activity as a 30-day post retirement project. The district approved the project for funding as a $9,000 district matching investment. This administrator had served at the adult school and had extensive industry contacts. He set up appointments for both himself and the teachers and administrators to present the mentor program. He brought out prospective mentors to view the academy classes and meet academy students. He made personal contacts with industry public relations officials and left mentor materials for distribution to all employees.
What does a business partner do as a mentor? Mentors are asked to meet with their mentees once each month. An information session and lunch activity at the high school was provided to introduce the mentors to their students. A schedule of monthly mentor activities has been developed; however, mentors do not have to participate in these. Mentors are asked to provide a February job shadow experience for their student.
On their mentor information/application forms most of the mentors wrote that they wanted to assist the students with their academic work, and tutoring sessions have been scheduled. Some mentors volunteered to work with two mentees, and some work as teams sharing a group of students.
STEP 9: DEVELOP FORMAL PARTNERSHIPS
A great way to gain business partners and financial support is for your academy to be formally partnered with a company or related organization. This is particularly important if your school is located in a large city and competes with other schools for support.
How do you establish formal partnerships? They may be developed with a specific business, an industry association, an intermediary organization such as a school-business alliance or Chamber of Commerce, or any other group that interfaces with that industry. Your job is to convince the organization that your academy has unique ties to them that makes a formal partnership logical and productive. The business or organization needs to see some value for them as a result of partnering with you.
What do you get from a formal partnership? There are a number of potential advantages:
1. Access to all the employees and/or the roster of members so that you can then recruit individual business partners
2. Specified annual commitments of personnel time and talent
3. Grants, used equipment, instructional materials, and attendance at industry functions
4. Status, as your partnership is publicized by the company
Affiliate memberships in organizations may assist your academy's growth also. You may want to become an affiliate member of an organization that can provide your academy with specialized knowledge of assistance.
STEP 10: MAKE YOUR LOCAL COLLEGES PARTNERS
A local community college or a four-year state university can be a great partner. Many of your academy students will be attending one of these, and you need to be working closely together. You need to include the college from the beginning in your academy planning.
What roles does a college play as partner? The college should have representatives on the academy steering committee. These representatives should come from appropriate departments and programs.
The college partners can offer advice on curriculum development, particularly in the technical academy classes. They may provide college courses for academy students to take through dual enrollment arrangements, providing both high school and college credit. The college faculty can also introduce the academy faculty to other sources of information related to the industry.
The college should be the site of a field trip each year to learn about college programs related to the industry, how to access the college library to do research, and the college application process. It may also have funding sources to augment the academy program budget.
STEP 11: VIEW COMPANIES AND COLLEGES. NOT INDIVIDUALS,
AS YOUR PARTNERS
Change happens. Individuals are transferred, get new responsibilities, develop new community interests, and the academy may no longer be a high priority. We've struggled with this situation in several instances and have learned to seek a company or college commitment with the understanding that individuals may vary from year to year.
Example 1: We had an individual who served as a business partner when we became a model Tech Prep school. She then became a member of our steering committee. Through her efforts the academy received a grant of $5,000 and was provided a field trip site. However, this partner was transferred to the mid-west and her successor has not answered any of our phone calls.
Example 2: Another business was an original partner that formally supported our grant application. For the planning year and first year of implementation the individual who wrote that letter served on our steering committee. However, she involved a variety of other employees in academy projects. When her company merged with another our steering committee member assumed new responsibilities. However, she arranged for the high school to become a formal partner with that new company and had a successor named to the academy steering committee.
STEP 12: RESPOND TO PARTNER CONCERNS
One of your major academy goals should be to keep your partners happy with their roles in your academy. To succeed you need to be aware of any concerns and be ready to respond.
How do you respond to individual partner concerns? Business partners may be uncertain about working with teenagers. They will have questions about how to successfully handle their academy responsibilities. You need to have a process to handle their questions and reduce their anxiety. Academy faculty need to understand that part of their task is to guide business partners participating in an activity.
Example: Each teacher is responsible for working with specific business partners who are serving as mentors. If a mentor has a question, she calls that teacher. Alternatively, you could assign one teacher the responsibility of the mentor program, and that teacher would then handle all mentor concerns.
Concerns often focus on the scheduling. That is why it is important that every activity be assigned to a specific teacher who will organize it, contact the partner, and maintain contact until the activity is completed. An academy secretary can play an important role in handling scheduling concerns and other minor problems. She needs to know what is going on with partners so she can respond to calls or emails and provide the needed information. She can also find answers to concerns and relay them back to the partner.
Example: Our academy uses two hours of a full time school secretary who also handles other responsibilities. Our understanding is that her time is flexible so that she may respond to academy calls throughout the day. However, the academy Lead Teacher and administrators need to handle concerns that affect the company or school. If it’s a serious concern, the principal needs to become involved because the partner may work with the school in other areas beyond the academy. Sometimes a major concern is beyond the school's ability to solve because the industry is experiencing problems. In this case you just adjust and move on.
STEP 13: PUBLICIZE PARTNER ACTIVITIES
Business partners volunteer to assist an academy for a number of reasons. These include wanting to assist young people to succeed, wanting to recruit young people to enter the industry, wanting to give back to the community, wanting approval from their company, or the company wanting approval from the community and/or its national headquarters.
You need to provide your business partners with positive publicity about the support they are providing your academy. This gives strokes to individual partners while encouraging other employees to volunteer to work with your academy. It enhances the company image in the community. If the company is national, it helps the local office to impress national headquarters with their volunteer spirit and industry promotional efforts.
Example: The energy industry gains mixed reactions from the general public. When we first proposed an energy/environmental technology academy, potential energy industry partners worried that the students might attack the industry. We explained that it gave the industry an opportunity to present its operations in a positive way. Newspaper articles about our field trips present the industry favorably, quoting positive student reactions while explaining what the students have seen and learned.
What types of publicity can you provide? One goal is to keep the academy visible in the school and community. Each edition of the school newspaper can have an academy story, and the parent newsletter an academy update. The public relations representatives of our business partners keep in contact with the school and write frequent articles for the company newsletters. The community newspaper and television stations accompany students on field trips to interesting business sites. These stories provide human interest, showing students interacting with industry representatives.
If the school has a career day or partner’s day this can generate positive publicity. It can become an opportunity to host your business partners or recruit potential partners. It may give them a picture of the school generally or focus on the role of the academy within the school.
Example 1: The district holds an annual Principal Partners Day, and each school hosts 15 to 20 business leaders. This year we invited all the members of the educational subcommittee of the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and concentrated on presenting the academy. Some who attended had not been active in the academy previously, but three signed up to be mentors the next day.
Example 2: The district always invites representatives from the local offices of the state senator and assemblyman to attend Principal Partners Day. This year we hosted the local representative of an assemblyman, who seemed very impressed with the academy. We have subsequently heard that this assemblyman will support the state budget increase in the Partnership Academy allocation.
STEP 14: CONTINUALLY EXPAND EMPLOYER CONTACTS
Why do you need to keep adding business partner contacts? Change happens: companies dissolve or change their community focus, and individuals leave the company, or grow tired. You need to view each business partner as a potential long-term connection who is really only certain for the short-term.
National corporations move their employees. We have assigned mentors to students and then had the mentors call and say they were being transferred next month or having to go out of the country for an extended assignment. The academy tries to develop mentor clusters with several mentors from one company working with several students. If one employee is transferred, the other mentors agree to mentor the student assigned to that employee.
New business partners bring in new ideas and activities. You may begin your academy with ten business partners that you already know. As your academy grows and you add students, you need to expand your academy partners to answer needs that you didn't know existed when you began.
Example: Our academy began with an emphasis on the energy industry because we had contacts in that field. Our only environmental technology contacts were with the local community college and waste management organization. By our second year we had established business partner connections with the local Parks and Recreation Department, the Bureau of Land Management, and other environmental groups. When the industry encountered a cyclical downturn the environmental business partners stepped in and provided increased field trip sites, mentors, and service learning opportunities.
STEP 15: VALUE YOUR PARTNERS
Without business partners your academy can't survive. You need to show your companies, your individual partners, the associations that support you, and your local colleges that you value their association with your academy.
How do you value your business partners? Provide opportunities for your business partners to be thanked by the students, staff, parents and school. This can be an end-of-year celebration, a formal certificate of appreciation, thank you letters from the students following a field trip experience, letters of appreciation sent to employers who have provided employee support, or formal commendations to employers from your school board. Thank your partners for every activity they provide in support of your academy.
Example: Our academy students write thank you letters in their English academy class after field trips. This is both a writing assignment and a lesson in how you respond appropriately when someone has provided a service for you.
Provide opportunities for your business partners to learn about student success. The goal of your academy is to guide your students to graduation, higher education, and successful careers. Your partners support these goals. Without violating student privacy, devise ways to highlight student improvement in grades, attendance and attitude and share this information with your partners. They want to know that their efforts are producing positive results.
The greatest compliment that you can give to your business partners is to use the information that they provide you. Value what your business partners recommend, offer in assistance, and report back to you after an activity is completed. They see what is happening in your academy in different ways than the faculty or administration may. Sometimes partners are more positive about an event than the faculty, and sometimes they have concerns. Value this information and adjust your next activity to reflect them. When partners see that the school respects their input, they feel a vital part of the academy operation.
Sample Advisory Board Agendas:
AGENDA FOR MEETING OCTOBER 19TH, 2010
1. Introductions all around: Ben
2. Overview: Ben Covers what happened at graduation, during the summer (jobs), college-going rates, the start-up of the Fall semester (classes, students, cohorts,…) and current challenges.
3. Overview of curriculum: Ben on Networks and Melody on Web Design/Content. Each to spend about 15 minutes of show and tell to indicate what is being taught and the basic approach. Should include what the Advisory Board could do to contribute.
Examples of work: The lab at El Cerrito (Bob Davis), the new ITA/TF web site, student work from Melody’s class.
4. Summer jobs program: Chris
Summary of prep….field trips, soft skills training, portfolios, Youth Works collaboration.
Summary of number of students placed and companies.
Recognition of AT&T Aspire Grant.
5. El Cerrito Career Academies: The Principal’s Perspective: Jason Reimann
Jason reviews the status and prospects for the three academies at EC and his personal commitment to their success. Takes questions. 10-15 minutes.
6. Overview of Linked Learning Initiative: Ron to do a quick update on some of the progress….mostly from the Connect Ed site…let’s be sure to have Patricia Clark invited. Will also tie in some of the Federal and State initiatives. 10 minutes
Sample PowerPoint Slides for a Presentation to Advisory Board:
Section XII – Work Based Learning
Work Based Learning Opportunities (WBL): Within the West Contra Costa Unified School (WCCUSD) and the Linked Learning model, WBL is defined as structured activities incorporated in the curriculum which apply knowledge and skills learned in class which connect to experiences at work.
An internship is a chance to use a “business classroom” to connect with what is happening at school, to add value to the educational experience, and to clarify the vast number of options available to students. Through internships, the student’s education is improved by:
Giving young people access to experiences that require more knowledge and skills than ordinary “student jobs”
Giving educators and employers the chance to work together in preparing students for success in the workplace
Helping educators connect the classroom to the modern workplace
Helping students understand the importance of their classroom instruction
Providing experience to list on the student’s resume
Giving students the opportunity to have a real world experience in a career field in which they have an interest
Creating possible future opportunities for young people in the companies where they intern (and possible future employees for companies that need them
Allowing employers to build alliances with local schools. Together, employers and educators can deliver a powerful message of the importance of education.
Students involved in an internship gather firsthand experience in modern business practices and skills. They learn what is necessary to complete assigned tasks in a timely manner, how to comport themselves responsibly and professionally, how employees work together, and the many opportunities available to them. They get the chance to practice or observe current technology, teamwork and cooperation, and basic business decorum. Internships provide an excellent opportunity for young people to question adults about their careers. They can view the myriad of possibilities within each career field; discern what they like and dislike about a particular job; and learn what skills, knowledge, and education are necessary for the career in which they have an interest. Because internships are not the same as jobs, students can learn more about the company than they would as an employee.
Internships assist the classroom teacher by giving the student a context to which they can relate their schoolwork. Research, writing, speaking, computation, analysis, problem solving, use of technology, organization, and responsibility are all inseparable parts of the modern workplace. When students can see the imminent value of their education first hand, a natural, honest motivation occurs, and gives value to that which the teacher has to offer. Students who serve internships learn the answer to “Why do we need to learn this?” first hand, and do not need to be apprised of the value of their academic instruction. They also see the relationship between job quality and level of education, and often return to school more motivated to go to college than beforehand.
Classroom instruction which augments the internship experience can be part of this experience. Examples include journal-keeping, resume building, and portfolio development. Lessons in all disciplines can be geared to relate the internship experience to academic skills. Such activities help to emphasize for students the connection between school and work, showing them practical applications for their learning and opening their minds to possible futures beyond what academic instruction alone usually achieves.