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).
Students who are currently 7th graders in the fall of 2019 will be the first class to enter College and Career Academies in 2021-22 when they will have an opportunity to take a semester-long 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. The freshman seminar class will include tools for a successful high school experience, including note-taking and study skills, as well as time exploring the pathways in U-46.
A team of administrators, principals, teachers, and staff serve on the Pathways Committee that evaluated a variety of potential Educational Pathways using criteria that included employment data, the ability for teachers to meet state and industry licensing requirements for the program, student interest, the facility requirements, and the ability for students to earn early college credit or industry credentials. 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.
Members of the Pathways Committee presented to the Board of Education on Oct. 7, 2019 a list of 23 Educational Pathways. Those pathways can be viewed through the navigation bar on this page. Many of the Educational Pathways will be located at numerous sites, others might be offered at just one or two schools, based on facility requirements. The site designations of each individual Educational Pathway will be finalized by Spring 2020 with a focus on equity and alignment with facilities.
Other next steps include developing a multi-year action plan to implement the academy model in all high schools, writing and revising curriculum, and creating a plan for counseling to help students choose their pathway.
The work involved in moving to all-Academy model has been underway for the past couple of 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, which was recently hosted at the Sears Centre.
As the work toward College and Career Academies progresses, we invite you to read this website section and learn more about our vision to develop College and Career Academies that provide students with the three Rs: rigor, relationships, and readiness for college and career. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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