This spring, Jamestown High School will roll out a new approach designed to increase engagement and better define academic and career pathways for students. What began as a discussion among Shared Decision-Making Team members, will now become a reality as JHS has created six academic academies: Academy of Business, Management, Marketing and Technology, Academy of Communications, Performing Arts and Visual Arts, Academy of Natural Science and Resource Management, Academy of Pre-Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology, and Academy of Pre-Medicine and Health Science. Beginning this spring, current ninth graders will be introduced to the academies as they prepare to make course selections for next year.
Each academy offers a theme or focus that is designed to give students an opportunity to explore a special interest, gift, talent or skill. JHS staff began working on the academies last spring as a means to improve student engagement and respond to community concerns related to college and career preparation. Over the next several months, teachers, school counselors and community members were invited to work on advisory committees to create the six academies. A sampling of community advisors include: The Chautauqua County Health Network, The Workforce Investment Board, Jamestown Audubon Center, The Resource Center, United Way, Jamestown Police Department, Jamestown Business College, Jamestown Renaissance Corp., Noon Rotary, Chautauqua Education (STEM) Coalition, Reg Lenna Center for the Arts and JCC. There were also several individuals from area businesses involved in this process.
“Jamestown High School, like many high schools across the country, needed to find a better way to engage our students in school. We also wanted to be responsive to the needs of our local community in terms of college and career preparation,” said JHS Principal Mike McElrath. “The academies give students an opportunity to engage in full range of interconnected academic courses and school activities. The model also allows them to explore a full range of career options from an application standpoint, which will include experiences outside of school.”
Career Academies are a time-tested model for improving academic achievement and readying students for life beyond high school. Conceived over forty years ago, career academies address academic rigor, relevance of instruction, and building relationships between students and adults. The academy concept is designed to help students recognize connections between academic subjects and the world of work.
“The idea of the academies really is a framework for a way to deliver opportunities to our students,” said David Munella, JPS Business Department Chair and member of the advisory board for the Academy of Business, Management, Marketing and Technology, “It puts the students in a position to connect their current academic coursework with future scholastic and career goals. The academy concept idea is growing in schools across the country. In addition to positioning students to become more college and career ready, it is also opening the doors for the community to really get on board and partner with our school.”
School and community partnerships draw upon local resources and expertise as a means to increase opportunities for students to engage in internships and other work-based learning experiences while providing adult mentors to motivate students and spur achievement. JHS plans to enhance their academies by offering a number outside opportunities within the community. For example, a student in the Academy of Natural Sciences and Resource Management might have an experience at the Audubon Nature Center shadowing a career ornithologist, collecting and analyzing data on bird migration patterns, or participating in their Volunteer Day to tackle spring clean-up and conservation tasks. JHS will also link extracurricular activities and clubs to the academies to offer after school experiences.
Academies are a particularly well-researched reform approach. Studies have shown positive impacts on academic outcomes including attendance, earned credits, grade point averages, graduation rates and college attendance rates. They also provide an excellent source of information and guidelines for parents as they assist children in making course selections in high school.