The Academy Model
The Partnership Academy Model is a three-year program, grades ten through twelve, structured as a school-within-a-school. There are currently 340 funded programs throughout California. The model, originating with the Philadelphia Academies in the late 1960s, spread to California in the early 1980s. Academies incorporate many features of the high school reform movement that includes creating a close family-like atmosphere, integrating academic and career technical education, and establishing viable business partnerships. Emphasis is also placed on student achievement and positive postsecondary outcomes. Academies have been carefully evaluated and shown to have positive impacts on school performance. Key components of the Academy model are:
- CURRICULUM focused on a career theme and coordinated with related academic classes.
- VOLUNTARY student selection process that identifies interested ninth graders.
- TEAM OF TEACHERS who work together to plan and implement the program.
- MOTIVATIONAL ACTIVITIES with private sector involvement to encourage academic and occupational preparation, such as: integrated and project-based curriculum, mentor program, classroom speakers, field trips, and exploration of postsecondary and career options.
- WORKPLACE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES such as job shadowing, student internships, and work experience.
Curriculum and Career Focus
The career technical focus for an Academy is determined by an analysis of the local labor market, with an eye toward fields that are growing and healthy, that offer jobs with career "ladders", and that have companies willing to support the program. Career technical education is kept broad, focusing on industries rather than specific jobs in areas such as business technology, health, electronics, media, agribusiness, building trades, natural resources, finance, and retail trade. The integration of a standards-based academic and career-technical curriculum is a key ingredient.
Teachers request to participate in the program and must be willing to work with "at-risk" students. Teachers are required to have a common planning period to meet regularly to:
- Plan the program activities and curriculum.
- Coordinate with business representatives.
- Meet with parents.
- Discuss student progress.
At least half of each new class must meet specific “at-risk” criteria to determine student eligibility. The remaining one half has no restrictions. The program is voluntary; students must apply, be interviewed, and be selected on the basis of need and interest. About 60-70 students are typically selected for entry each year, enough to comprise two sections of a sophomore class.
Each Academy has a partnership with employers. Employer representatives:
- Serve on an Academy steering committee that oversees the program.
- Help to develop the career technical curriculum.
- Provide speakers for Academy classes.
- Host field trips to give students a perspective of the workplace.
- Provide mentors who serve as career-related role models and personal points of contact in the field of training.
- Provide internships and summer jobs for Academy students.
The Mentor Program
In the eleventh grade, Academy students are matched with mentors. Mentors are usually employees of participating businesses who volunteer to be a "career-related and/or caring adult" in the student's life.
After their junior year, students performing well enough to be on track for graduation are placed in internship positions. Students apply for these positions as they would in the open market; i.e., they prepare resumes, complete job applications, and have interviews. Companies make the hiring decisions.
Funding and Evaluation
Funding is performance based; only those students meeting the 80 percent attendance and 90 percent credit requirements qualify for funding. State grants must be matched 100 percent by both the receiving district and business partners. Annual evaluations consistently reflect improved student performance on attendance, credits, grade point averages, and graduation rates.
Following are the funding requirements for California Partnership Academy grants:
- The district provides 100 percent match of state funds received in the form of direct and in-kind supports.
- Participating companies or other private-sector organizations provide 100 percent match of state funds received in the form of direct and in-kind support.
- State funds provided by the Partnership Academy program are only used for the development, operation, and support of Partnership Academies.
- The Academy is established as a "school-within-a-school" with classes restricted to Academy students.
- Academy teachers work as a team in planning, teaching, and troubleshooting program activities.
- An advisory committee is formed that consists of individuals involved in Academy operations, including school district and school administrators, lead teachers, and representatives of the private sector. The advisory committee meets regularly.
- During grades ten and eleven Academy students are provided instruction in at least three academic subjects that contribute to an understanding of the occupational field of the Academy and one career-technical class related to the Academy's occupational field.
- Academy classes during twelfth grade may vary, but must include at least one academic and one career technical education class.
- The school site class schedule limits Academy classes to Academy students with classes block scheduled whenever possible.
- Students are provided with a mentor from the business community during the student's eleventh grade year.
- Students are provided with an internship or paid job related to the Academy's occupational field or work experience to improve employment skills during the summer following eleventh grade or during the twelfth grade year.
- Students are provided opportunities to engage in additional motivational activities with private sector involvement to encourage academic and occupational preparation.
- Academy teachers have a common planning period to interchange student and educational information.