A historic partnership among the four public school districts and five chambers of commerce in Pulaski County is formed around a new model for public high school.
With the cooperation of Ford Next Generation Learning (FORD NGL), the Academies of Central Arkansas mobilizes educators, local employers and community leaders to transform teaching and learning in high schools by creating and maintaining career-themed academies.
Launched in late 2020, the Academies of Central Arkansas prepares students for college, careers, lifelong learning and leadership so they can compete successfully in today’s economy. Teachers in career academies work collaboratively, intertwining the academy’s career lens across core academics to deliver relevant learning with real world experiences provided by local industry.
The combined resources of the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District, the Little Rock School District, the North Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District make it possible for all students to graduate ready for college and a career. Students in every high school of the four districts experience the benefit at no extra cost.
“We use a mantra at LRSD called the Power of Us, and I cannot think of a better application of that phrase than the commitment represented through this countywide Academies of Central Arkansas collaboration,” said Mike Poore, superintendent of the Little Rock Public School District. “We are grateful for the partnership with neighboring districts, the Chamber and business industry. It takes all of us working together to ensure student success.”
Small learning communities ensure each student has an identity and is provided a tailor-made learning experience. Students are prepared and given opportunities to select a learning experience that interests them and teachers are supported and given a voice through the communities and business partners.
Students continue to take their core and AP courses and take part in extracurriculars, and can expect more personalized learning as teachers stay with them from year to year. They have the opportunity to earn dual/concurrent credit and industry-recognized certifications.
In the Academies model, businesses are strategically paired with a school and specific academy that aligns with its career opportunities.
Businesses can get involved by advising on curriculum and certifications, hosting field trips and industry tours, participating in the Career Exploration Fair, guest speaking, providing project-based learning examples, video chat classroom instruction, hosting teacher externships, providing student internships, serving as career mentors, sitting on Academies advisory boards and financial support of an academy.
Business partnerships benefit from the student’s success by creating a talent pipeline for the business community. Whether students graduate and go directly into a career or into post-secondary education, the partnerships with businesses ensure students are exposed to the talent and skills needed for the future workforce.
This exposure coupled with coursework educates students on careers in the professional world.
“Ford NGL research has proven that community ownership and accountability are just as important to educating our children as good study habits and hard work,” said Cheryl Carrier, executive director of Ford Next Generation Learning. “The Ford NGL partnership gives students and teachers a competitive edge that improves their chances for future success and will benefit the workforce and economic development needs of a region for years to come.”
The Academies model calls for deep, strategic partnerships between schools and businesses. The first 13 “cornerstone” business partners include Arkansas Children’s, Arvest, AT&T, Baldwin Shell, Baptist Health, Central Arkansas Water, Entergy Arkansas, First National Bank, Haas Factory Outlet, Mainstream Technologies, McLarty Nissan, MHP/Team SI and UAMS.
“Pulaski County Special School District is excited to join our community stakeholders who have been with the Ford NGL initiative from the start,” said Charles McNulty, superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District. “In order to make the Academies of Central Arkansas a success, we need commitment to our community with an ‘in it for the long haul’ vision.”