President Obama’s administration and the United States Department of Education have proposed a strategy for educational policy that prioritizes rigor and relevance in America’s schools. The plan is Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education (the full document is quite long, so feel free to glance through the summary). The plan calls on educational leaders and organizations to create opportunities that provide high-quality job-training opportunities in order to reduce skill shortages, encourage business growth, encourage new investment and job creation, and improve the longterm financial and economic health of citizens and the country as a whole.
The Investing in America’s Future plan specifically recommends the career academy model as one of the most effective means by which to make a lasting impact on individual students’ lives and the overall economic and financial health of a community. According to the brief, “The strength of career academies is their ability to make education more relevant to students through personalized and contextual learning, while preparing students for continuing education at the postsecondary level and for successful careers.”
The Obama administration and Department of Education are pushing for a new version of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins Act). This law is the primary source of federal funding for career and technical education (CTE) programs. The president’s plan proposes a $1 billion competitive fund over three years (starting in fiscal year 2013) to increase the number of high-quality career academies in the United States.
The brief on career academies makes a strong argument for this model of education:
Rigorous evaluations of career academies across the country have demonstrated that offering students academically rigorous curricula embedded in career-related programs can reduce high school drop-out rates and prepare students for high-earning and high-skilled careers. Data have shown that high school students who graduate from career academies make on average 11 percent more per year than their non-career academy counterparts. Young men, a group that has faced a serious decline in earnings in recent years, make 17 percent more annually than young men who did not graduate from career academies. Higher earnings help our overall economy, increasing consumer spending and strengthening the middle class.
This focus on career academies comes with three principal goals: 1) improve student achievement and reduce drop-out rates, 2) increase postsecondary attainment, and 3) help industries hire American workers.
Nashville has a wonderful head start in this innovative educational paradigm. Twelve MNPS zoned high schools have career academies that give our students access to real-world learning opportunities and hands-on experience in high-wage, high-demand careers in middle Tennessee. The U.S. Department of Education even visited Hillwood High School to learn more about the excellent strides Nashville is making. Nashville is poised to take the lead in the national movement to improve educational outcomes.