Magazine article Techniques

ACE Tech: The Fourth Year of CTE and Academic Integration

Magazine article Techniques

ACE Tech: The Fourth Year of CTE and Academic Integration

Article excerpt


It only takes an hour or two of roaming the halls of Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Tech Charter High School to detect an enduring attitude of accomplishment from both the teachers and the students. This atmosphere is intentional. The school, located in Chicago, was created specifically to hone the skills of individuals choosing to focus on architecture, construction or engineering as their career goal. The chief organizational emphasis here is on both fostering deep engagement with students and creating a context where accomplishments can be acknowledged and reflected upon. While many schools strive for this arrangement, the administration, teachers and students of ACE Tech achieve their goals in an exemplary form by making sure each student has an academic plan that specifically suits the career goals expressed by the student.

The main ingredients for the success of this institution include a focused curriculum, a well organized management team, an engaged faculty, and an empowered student body. It is the position of the authors that all these components make a quality learning community. Of course ACE Tech didn't just spontaneously emerge and develop on its own; it is a precursor to the Renaissance 2010 initiative created by Mayor Richard Daley to assist those who are involved in urban high school education. Additionally, ACE Tech is a school that wants the students to succeed and in turn the profession of teaching to succeed. And this, undoubtedly, requires hard work from everyone.

Need for Structure

What accounts for the progress that is shown in the skills and abilities in a school that started in 2003? The first area that sheds some light on this question concerns the school's structure, which is given form by the many roles performed at ACE Tech. The chief educational officer is responsible for delineating tasks to each of the school's managers, who, in return, are held accountable to carry those tasks out. The structure at the school shows clear lines of management. Recently, when the dean of students conducted a disciplinary hearing for one of the students, he knew the background of the student's behavior, the issue in question and several alternative procedures that could be followed. As the meeting proceeded, it was evident that everyone in attendance had a clear understanding of what needed to be done in order to rectify the situation. Consequently, the student left the meeting with an accessible plan of action that would serve to get him on the path.

The board of directors meets once a month to focus primarily on the big picture in regard to finances, facilities, educational outcomes and student internships as well as job opportunities. The board is made up of architects, building trades labor leaders, owners of construction companies, and engineers who know what it takes to begin a successful career in the construction industry. There is an educational consultant on the board who has years of experience in urban schools, and the board directs and supports the school's activities.

A Focused Curriculum

How is this curriculum different from other high school experiences? In the past, curriculum was focused on a broad sweep of general knowledge. Now, curriculum follows the standards of the Illinois Board of Education, and along with these standards the school is infusing the industry standards into the curriculum. The teachers have already demonstrated their ability to incorporate some of the industry standards into the classes. In one chemistry class, the teacher directed the students to produce cement as a chemical experiment. They changed the amount of liquid in the cement and discussed what would happen on a highway if different amounts of liquids were used in the cement.

On another occasion a teacher was reading the book House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisernos. In discussing the book, the teacher engaged the students in a conversation about living in a poor neighborhood, and its effects on the family and school. …

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