Pathways to Success
In School District U-46, the mission “Academic Success for All” is more than a motto. It drives our daily work, and that includes a vision to expand the number of small learning communities within our high schools.
The U-46 community already recognizes the success of small learning communities through its current Magnet Academies. Many graduates of these academies credit their success to the small learning communities, even those who now work in a field other than their Academy’s area of focus. The transferable workforce skills, the ability to apply what they have learned, the guidance of faculty and support of peers all made a difference in their career trajectory.
School District U-46 wants to make these small learning communities available to all students. We believe all our students deserve a creative, supportive environment where they will have access to the most engaging and relevant coursework.
The new College and Career Academies will be designed to prepare U-46 students for the rigors of college and tomorrow’s career skills. The plan calls for all U-46 high schools to each house the same five academies, with the focus being Fine Arts, Human Services, Liberal Arts, Business, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
While this educational shift had been scheduled to begin with freshmen in the 2021-22 school year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has required the plan to be pushed back to a future school year.
Once the College and Career Academies launch, 9th graders will have an opportunity to take a freshman seminar course before selecting an intentionally-designed sequence of courses housed within each academy. These course sequences, referred to as “Educational Pathways,” could be made up of core classes or electives but taken together in a cohesive manner, they will emphasize critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and other 21st Century work skills required across all industries. Students will learn through opportunities both inside and outside the classroom, preparing them for college, career and life.
“We are hoping to empower students to explore a field of interest and learn more about themselves in the process,” says Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Lela Majstorovic. “The end goal is not simply graduating from high school; the end goal is for our students to graduate with a plan and multiple options for the next step in their journey.”
Students will still be required to meet graduation requirements and be able to meet specific college admission standards. The Educational Pathways will ensure students can explore a field of interest and graduate with early college credit and/or industry-recognized credentials in addition to a high school diploma. Programs also need to be able to meet the needs of students who have IEPs, English Learners, or are enrolled in the District’s Dual Language program. The Pathways must meet all state and federal laws for college and career readiness.
The work involved in moving to all-Academy model has been underway for the past few years, and it includes the adoption of Naviance, a web-based college and career readiness platform for use in middle school and high school; a partnership with the Alignment Collaborative for Education; the addition of guidance counselors to the District’s eight middle schools; and Explore, the District’s annual curriculum and career expo.
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