Communities play a significant role in providing support and guidance to students as they explore who they are and the impact they want to make in the world.
A college and career-ready student develops from the care of their educators, their pathway/industry program, their school and district, and their community; like concentric circles with a common center.
Communities play a significant role in providing support and guidance to students as they explore who they are and the impact they want to make in the world. Developing connections between education, businesses, organizations, and other community stakeholders promote student success and can meet the workforce needs of a region. Students who participate in work-based learning experiences, internships, apprenticeships and other opportunities in local businesses and industries may choose to stay in their communities and boost the local economy.
ConnectED partners with schools, districts, and community leaders to support students in leading fulfilling college, career, and civic lives. Starting in 2006, ConnectED designed and led the Linked Learning initiative in nine large school districts in California to build systems in college and career pathways (see this blog we published in 2019).
They since have expanded nationally and continue to partner with communities to design pathways for college and career (not one or the other but both) including these four core components: college preparatory academics taught differently (more emphasis on project-based learning, real-world learning, and performance assessment), linked to a cluster of career courses, a continuum of work-based learning (job shadowing and internships), and personalized student support (social-emotional learning, college and career counseling, and accelerated instruction in reading, writing, math).
ConnectED is fundamentally about changing teaching and learning so that what students experience inside and outside of the classroom is different from traditional high school. Focusing on district-wide pathways, with a big emphasis on long-term systemic change, they go beyond the classroom to join with community partners in a local context. The education ecosystem, as ConnectED refers to it, is interconnected and the entire infrastructure of the community must collaborate to support and guide the next generation.
In the Fall of 2021, in partnership with ConnectED, North Kansas City Schools (NKC) transformed their high schools into wall-to-wall career academies. The same four pathway programs are offered at all four comprehensive high schools in the district in Health and Wellness, Public and Commercial Services, Business, Leadership and Entrepreneurship, and Design, Innovation and Technology. Starting in ninth grade, every student selects a four-year program of study in one of these pathways.
Designed to prepare students for both college and career readiness, these programs are closely aligned with the local industry and provide students with opportunities to explore careers and gain transferable skills. The Real World Learning initiative in Kansas City supports over 30 districts in the region with the shared vision that by 2030 all students will graduate with at least one market-value asset (MVA); industry-valued experiences.
Chad Sutton, Deputy Superintendent of Academics in North Kansas City Schools says, “One of the keys to expanding partnerships has been our Industry Executive Council and our Pathway Advisory Boards. Each of these boards is facilitated by business leaders, each with a series of clearly articulated goals centered on providing students with work-based learning experiences. These leaders in turn go out and recruit their colleagues within their industry to partner with us and provide our students with authentic work-based learning experiences. We have reached a point in which our business leaders are doing as much recruiting as we are.”
A college and career-ready student develops from the care of their educators, their pathway/industry program, their school and district, and their community; like concentric circles with a common center. The gain is not only to the student, however; the community can benefit greatly from a student who has been exposed to career awareness and exploration throughout their education, built the technical and durable skills necessary for employment, and created a network of people in their community.
“One of the biggest positive changes we have seen is a more engaged community and I think a lot of that is we have a better way to engage community and business partners,” says Mark Maus, Executive Director of Academic Services in North Kansas City Schools. “Our partners have significantly expanded over the last several years and number nearly 500 partners when previously we were at a little over 200 partners. Our partners appreciate and enjoy working with our kids. It is changing the network of connections our students are leaving with!”
Designing a district-wide pathways system ensures that the majority of students get to participate in a pathways program, creating more options and opportunities to establish equity for all learners. NKC Schools, with the support of ConnectED, are making certain this is the case for all students in their district beginning with the graduating class of 2025.