College & Career Academies of Akron (CCAA) provides educational experiences designed to strengthen the connection between learning in the classroom with what students may pursue after graduation, making learning more meaningful and giving students the real-world skills they need to be successful in an ever-changing global economy.
Throughout the PreK-12 journey, every student will have the opportunity to explore the world both inside and outside the classroom while learning about themselves and a future they can envision. These equitable opportunities give all students the tools they need to reach their highest potential:
- Elementary Experiences (PreK - 5th Grade)
- Middle School Academies (6th Grade - 8th Grade )
- High School Academies (9th Grade - 12th Grade)
- Expanded Learning (PreK- 12th Grade)
Since the launch of CCAA in 2017, Akron Public Schools has seen:
- Increased high school graduation rates
- Increased academic achievement
- Development of real-world skills as outlined in the Portrait of a Graduate
- Increased number of students graduating with industry certifications and college credits
Akron Public Schools was designated a Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) Community on May 16, 2017. The Ford NGL model mobilizes educators, employers, and community leaders to prepare a new generation of young people who will graduate from high school ready for college, careers, and life—prepared to compete successfully in the 21st century economy.
Ford NGL blends the expertise of stakeholders within and across communities. Three distinct but interconnected strands comprise the Ford NGL framework, which enables whole communities to design and carry out a long-term plan for revitalizing education.
CCAA will catalyze and grow the regional talent pipeline by preparing graduates to work in high-demand, sustainable fields. Graduates immersed in relevant coursework will have developed real-word skills that align college and career preparation to local workforce demands.
Akron Public Schools partners with ConxusNEO to track regional career data to establish academies focused on high-demand skills and careers providing a pathway to prosperity for graduates.
Will advanced classes, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), College Credit Plus (CCP) Honors classes, be offered in an academy model?
Yes, all advanced classes will be offered in the college and career academy model. In fact, the goal will be to increase the number of students being able to access advanced courses by increasing the relevancy and rigor in our instructional practices. Metro Nashville Public Schools is the model school district across the country in implementing academies, and they have had a 40% increase in students accessing advanced courses in their high schools.
With a focus on college and career, will arts programs still be offered?
Yes, Akron Public Schools values our arts programs, and they will remain an integral part of the educational experience for our students who choose to participate.
How will students with disabilities participate in the college and career academy model?
College & Career Academies will serve 100% of students in our academy schools. All students will be included on an academy team, and the support structures will be developed and provided to those students who need them. Ultimately, each child’s individualized Education Program (IEP) will support their learning and will be implemented to ensure student success.
Currently, Career Education students take three career classes every day. In the academy model, will all students take three career classes daily?
Students in the College & Career Academy model will take at least one career education course each year beginning in 10th grade. Students who have selected specific pathways may need to take more courses in their pathway to earn an industry credential, and we will encourage all students to take courses in their pathway as elective courses. The minimum number of courses in an academy pathway is three.
Are you expecting students to actually know what they really want to do for a career when they are in eighth or ninth grade?
Not necessarily. We understand that we must prepare our Akron Public Schools students for careers that haven’t even been discovered yet. We want them to graduate with strong 21st-century skills of being able to collaborate, communicate, and think critically and creatively.
The idea of an academy is to help students begin to explore their interests and passions, bring academic courses to life by providing a real world/career lens to the lessons, and allow students the opportunity to learn by having experiences in the career field they are interested in. We will be focused on transferable skills that they can use in whatever pathway they choose after graduation.
Will each cluster have a career speciality area that will be the focus for the entire high school?
No, each cluster will offer academies that provide students with a variety of options.
If the career field my child is interested in is not offered in their home school, does that mean he or she will need to go to a different school? And what about playing sports? How will that be affected?
It might, yes. APS wants to provide all students with a variety of choices. We will be spending time in the middle grades providing all students and families with the opportunities each of our high schools has to offer.
Our Akron Public Schools families will have to review all of their options and then make the best decision for their child. This includes family decisions on athletics. The school a student chooses to attend will be the school whose athletic programs that student will be able to join.
When will students choose their academy and pathway?
Middle school students will be introduced to the academies and pathways offered at each high school in Akron as their families make decisions about where their children will attend high school. Once in high school, all ninth-grade students will be enrolled into the Freshman Academy where they will take a freshman seminar course.
This course, as well as other experiential learning opportunities, will allow students to select the academy and pathway that is the best fit for their interests and potential career aspirations for 10th, 11th and 12th grade. This is captured during the annual winter student course request process.
What are the expectations for freshmen, and how will this be supported?
The focus for students in the Freshman Academy will be to transition successfully to high school. Understanding rigorous expectations, developing strong study skills and getting involved in high school will be the first priority.
Secondly, students in the Freshman Academy will begin to explore career options and aspirations. This process will begin with Career Cruising. Students will gain a better understanding of themselves as learners as well as what careers may align with their personalities and interests. Students will deepen their career exploration by participating in a career fair. This event will provide students with access to experts in different career fields and will culminate in a career research project.
Lastly, students will begin to explore the education requirements necessary to obtain jobs in the career fields they identified as potential interest areas. Students will take a college visit to begin to see themselves on a college campus and then use the information obtained to create a ten-year plan on the necessary steps needed to be able to achieve their career goals outlined in their research project.
How are students who do not have a specific interest placed in an academy?
We will work with all of our students to identify critical information that might help them narrow their areas of interest. This will be supported with Career Cruising. Students will also meet with their academy counselor to review their data and discuss all of the options available to them.
If students are still struggling to make their choice, academies and pathways that are more focused on transferable skills will be suggested, but ultimately all students will be placed in an academy and pathway.
How will academies impact daily instructional practices?
What will be taught in the academic classes will still be based on the Ohio state standards specific to the content area. Teachers in an academy will then use the resources and tools available to them to bring the standards-based lessons to life, through the career-themed lens.
After participating in professional development in Problem-Based Learning ( PBL), teachers will begin to implement problem-based learning units that are rooted in the standards they are responsible to teach and posed in an inquiry-based teaching strategy. We are anticipating that teachers will implement one PBL each semester.
Teachers in an academy will choose interdisciplinary strategies that will allow students to practice a skill in different classes throughout their day. One example of this would be citing textual evidence. Teachers in an academy could select a two-week period of time where they all focus on integrating this instructional strategy to help the students on their team reach mastery with this skill.
What professional development will teachers need to be prepared for academies?
Teachers will be provided with team training as an academy team. The training is designed to build a solid foundation of a team of teachers, a counselor and principal who are equipped to work together to reach their established goals. Teams will have their own mission, team name, colors and rituals, routines, and celebrations. This three-day training will be foundational to the academy model.
Teachers in an academy will also receive training in problem-based learning. This inquiry-based instructional strategy requires teachers to move away from teacher-led instruction to student-led learning and incorporates real-world problems in our community to help bring the standards to life. This is also a three-day training that is important to the academy model.
The CCAA district PD team will be creating options for teams to receive the training following our district policies and collective bargaining agreements.
Who will be responsible for expanding business partners for an academy?
Akron Public Schools will have a business engagement structure that will be designed to support the work of the academies. There will be tiered levels of support that will include school-based academy advisory boards, district-wide industry partnership councils, and district-level CEO champions that will increase community involvement.
There is going to be one organization selected from the city to build an infrastructure we’re calling the “Akron Partnership for Community Engagement.” This organization will be responsible for recruiting, vetting and aligning our community partners to each academy. They will broker the connection between meeting the needs of schools through business and community partners.
Every high school will also employ an Academy Coach who will work directly with staff from the Akron Partnership for Community Engagement. The Academy Coach will be solely responsible for all contact with the business and community partners, bringing them through the school, and setting up whatever is needed while they are interacting with the students and faculty.
What academy would a core teacher teach in?
Teachers are assigned to one academy, and this is their small learning community. If scheduling requires it, teachers can have specific classes where they teach students outside of their academy team, but the goal is to keep academies “pure” (i.e., teachers only teach courses within their academy).
Teachers will be able to convey interest to the principal in a particular academy in a similar manner as teachers now share interest in teaching particular courses. We want teachers to be as interested and passionate about their academies as their students. All academic classes, though, must be offered in all academies.
How are academies different than our current Career Education Programs?
Academies include all students in a high school. They also are structured into small learning communities where academic and career education teachers work together to help students reach their goals. Instruction in the academy is based on student career interests and is integrated as often as possible in teachers’ daily lessons.
Academies also continue to offer honors, college credit plus, advanced placement and international baccalaureate classes in every high school. Metro Nashville Schools, for example, was able to increase honors and advanced classes by 43% over the years due to the positive academic effects of small learning communities and more engaged students.
Career Education Programs currently have outstanding results for the approximately 20% of students who participate in them. We are looking to expand on this success and integrate the best practices found in career education so that all students benefit.
What was the process for deciding the *academies and pathways in each school and were families involved?
The academy design process was held over a four-month time period and involved multiple stakeholders. Teacher leaders, principals, families and community members in each school were charged with reviewing data in career cruising, focus group data and workforce data to design their pathways for college and career academies. APS conducted a series of community meetings with families who were personally invited to attend, via all-call phone messages.
*The next step in the process will be to group the pathways so that they fall under an academy theme.
If my child’s first choice of a pathway is not a viable option for a variety of reasons, such as transportation issues, how can the pathway they select in their home school meet my child’s interest and learning needs?
All pathways will provide students with transferable skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking and professional soft skills, that will be beneficial no matter what his or her career interests might be. One way to ensure each child’s interest area is addressed is through the experiential learning opportunities all students in an academy will receive. When faculty plan industry field trips, job shadowing opportunities, internships and senior capstone projects for students, the opportunities can be tailored to individual student interest and needs.
For example, if a student is interested in marine biology, he or she may select the animal studies pathway offered at Ellet High School. The way to customize it is through experiential learning.
Here are a few examples:
Industry field trip - Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Job-shadowing experience - biological technician at Kent State University
Senior capstone project - to study the effects of an oil or chemical spill on oceans or animal life and propose a new and authentic solution to the problem
The experiences listed above would allow a student to explore and learn about his or her interest area, while still selecting a pathway offered in the student’s home school.
Will Jr. ROTC be affected by this new initiative?
Our popular Jr. ROTC programs are still going to be offered as they are today.
Is this simply a completely vocational approach to learning focusing on students finding jobs when they graduate?
This is for all students. Those who might have been in traditional career education (also known as vocational) have many opportunities in our academies. So do students more interested in pursuing college prep courses. College & Career Academies of Akron offer myriad choices for students. This gives each student a much greater opportunity for his or her future. We emphasize the importance of intentional planning of student pathways as a way of engaging students and their families in this holistic approach to education.
Akron Public Schools engaged the community in developing the CCAA Portrait of a Graduate, a collective vision that articulates the community’s aspirations for all students. This highlights the skills and competencies needed to be successful.