Alice Barnard, CEO, Edge

Music City’s Greatest Export? – Nashville’s Career Academies

You may be forgiven for thinking that the best thing to come out of the wonderful city of Nashville is the country music of legends like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. But don’t be fooled by the gentle Southern ballads – change has been fast paced in Music City’s education system over the last ten years.

In 2005, the city had a high school graduation rate of just 57% and, in the words of Melissa Jaggers, President of Alignment Nashville, ‘we knew it wasn’t time for tweaks, it was time for wholesale change.’ That is exactly what they embarked on, led by the business community that wanted to ensure that young people in this corner of Tennessee got the skills they needed for their future workforce. Through a process of intensive collaboration across business, education and the city’s government, the model of Career Academies was rolled out in 12 Nashville schools by 2010. A small team from Edge went to see how it was working out. 

Career Academies

Career Academies are a school within a school; the model builds on the small school movement that has been popular in the United States since the 1970s. In their 9th Grade year (age 14/15) young people join their school’s Freshman Academy. They spend time every day on English and maths, but they also learn the essential work skills, such as models of team working and structured note taking that will set them in good stead across their school career. They have time and support to investigate and explore their career options through presentations from older students, careers fairs, job exploration and college visits. This provides an excellent model for the government’s proposed ‘transition year’.

This experience helps them to choose the Career Academy that will be their focus for the remaining three years of High School – there are around 40 across Nashville and 2-4 in each school. They range from the Academy of Automotive Design to the Academy of Health Management and the Academy of Digital Design and Communications.

Their choice of Academy shapes every aspect of a young person’s school life, from structured employer engagement like job shadowing to relevant technical education qualifications. Perhaps most importantly, the Academy provides the context for their broader curriculum – young people learn about mathematical formulae from an aviation engineer or English comprehension through the lens of researching a court case with a local lawyer.

Making learning relevant

This approach makes the learning so much more relevant, making young people more enthusiastic as they can see exactly how it will be put into practice. As Robin Wall, Principal of McGavock High School says,

‘They don’t like math, English or science any more than they did ten years ago, but now they go in and they want to learn them because they can see their relevance to their future job’.

This was reinforced by one of his Seniors, Hayley, who told me,

‘I got the opportunity to job shadow at Country Music Television. The lighting designer showed me how angles mattered to his work and suddenly math was worthwhile.”

Supporting teachers

As we walked around the high schools of Nashville, one of the most striking things was, not just how happy and engaged the pupils were, but how positive and relaxed the teachers seemed – a far cry from the overstretched workforce in our schools trying to do their best with insufficient resources and an overbearing set of performance measures.

That’s no surprise when you realise that teachers are given time to plan lessons during the week – both individually and as a group to spot cross-curricular opportunities. As new members of staff they receive mentoring and there are ongoing opportunities for lesson observation and personal development. Over the summer break, they spend a few days together on an externship with an employer, keeping their experience current and bringing back a cross-cutting project for pupils to work on over the coming year. Teaching young people relevant work skills whilst being invested in and supported yourself is a world away from forcing reluctant pupils into a narrow EBacc and an endless cycle of English and maths retakes.

The role of local employers

All of this is not just underpinned by, but led by local employers who see it as their moral and economic duty to induct the next generation of young people into the workforce. Their CEOs are the ones that sit down with a new Superintendent of Schools to tell them that the Academies are central to Nashville’s educational and economic priorities, ending the constant cycle of revolution that plagues the English technical education system. As Marsha Edwards, one of the CEO Champions in Nashville says,

‘It’s easy to assume that high school students don’t want adults around because they’re teenagers, but that’s not really true. Our young people are looking for role models; adults who take an interest in their professional future. They want to hear from adults who are succeeding in the ‘real world.’ They want to see examples of what they can become in life.’

Graduating and beyond

The results speak for themselves. Young people are voting with their feet with attendance rising from 87% to 96% and suspensions falling 40% as they feel more engaged. In ten years, the graduation rate has gone from 57% to 81% and, as a result, the Academies model has added $96m to the local economy.

We joined 400 education practitioners from across the US looking to borrow from the academies model in their own communities – people who believe that the Academies are the future of education in the States. It’s high time the UK picked up its guitar and learned some tunes from Music City, USA.  

Alice Barnard, CEO, Edge

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 13 hours 27 minutes ago

RT @FENews: NGWLive: Network Rail: NGWLive: Network Rail https://t.co/zqS6YwqgxP
View Original Tweet

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 17 hours 35 minutes ago

City of London Corporation provides Square Mile schoolchildren with food vouchers during half term break:… https://t.co/QilxKc8yaD
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page