A Model of the Career Academy Concept: When Career and Technical Education Is Integrated with Academics in Smaller Learning Communities, It Can Be a Model for Student Success

By Reese, Susan | Techniques, January 2007 | Go to article overview

A Model of the Career Academy Concept: When Career and Technical Education Is Integrated with Academics in Smaller Learning Communities, It Can Be a Model for Student Success


Reese, Susan, Techniques


In New York's Putnam and Northern Westchester counties, the eight career academies of the Tech Center at Yorktown are not only providing hands-on programs that teach job-related skills, but a team of evaluators from the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) describes the eight academies of the Putnam/Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) as "a model for curriculum integration."

Sandy Mittelsteadt, who was a member of the ACTE team, says, "What a privilege to evaluate the eight career academies in the Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES! Curriculum integration in these eight academies is the best that this evaluator has ever witnessed in an academy undergoing an evaluation. The curriculum integration is threefold: integration between career and technical with academics, intra-curriculum integration within the different pathways of the academy, and inter-curriculum integration between the academies."

At the 24-acre campus of the Tech Center at Yorktown, approximately 1,000 high school students from 18 school districts spend four hours a day taking both career and academic classes. According to the school's Web site, this schedule "frees students to more freely explore their field of interest, better preparing them for work in the 'real world.'"

As the school's director, Kevin Hart, explains, "Teaching academics in an applied way just makes sense. Students never question if this will be on the test, because they see the relationship between the academic principle and its application and understand its importance."

Students have the opportunity to attend the Tech Center for one or two years, and graduates can attain a Career and Technical Education Certificate or a Regents Diploma with a Technical Endorsement. Some courses may also qualify as college credit from the State University at New York (SUNY).

The Academies

The Communications Academy at the Tech Center at Yorktown has three pathways: commercial art, computer graphics and TV production. The academy integrates English and math with practical work experience in the field. The classes stress communications, problem solving, teamwork and computer skills.

Communications academy student activities include creating publications and calendars, writing articles for newsletters, taking photographs, designing Web sites, working with public relations counseling, and production for cable TV, radio and video.

The Cosmetology and Related Services Academy includes pathways in cosmetic services and manicuring/nails, with fashion scheduled to be added for the 2007-2008 school year. The students also hear guest speakers and participate in field trips, job shadowing, community service and internships. The courses include the 1,000 hours needed for certification.

The Environmental Sciences Academy offers students what the ACTE team describes as "an innovative and collaborative approach to environmental careers." The three pathways within the academy are arboriculture/landscaping, floriculture and environmental science.

Environmental students, who also may sit for the AP exam, graduate from the academy well prepared for work in the field or to go on to postsecondary education. The ACTE evaluators also note that, while all of the Tech Center's academies include critical thinking and problem solving, "this academy goes above and beyond to emphasize decision-making."

The Health Services Academy includes a skill-based curriculum that equips students with job-specific medical skills, certification or licensure, as well as appropriate credentials to succeed in college. This academy's pathways are licensed practical nurse, medical assisting, certified nurse aide/home health care aide and pre-med. …

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