District Administration April 2018 - 58

ProfessionalOpinion
Charter forms partnership
others can replicate
Connections with higher ed and industry put students on the path toward success
By Michael Lauro

T

oo many students graduate
high school unprepared for college and career. There is a disconnect between what they know when
they leave high school and what they are
expected to know when they enter college and the workplace. They lack vital
communications and critical thinking
skills as well as real-world experiences.
So, how do you prevent this disconnect? At Atlantis Charter School in Fall
River, Massachusetts, we set out to find
a solution. As a public charter school,
we have the autonomy and flexibility
to design our own curriculum, and we
used that autonomy to build a high
school from scratch.
We brought together a coalition
of partners from local colleges and
universities, businesses, financial and
philanthropic institutions, and other
community groups. We asked: What
skills should students possess when they
graduate high school? What jobs are in
demand right now? With their guidance, we created five school-to-career
academies:
* Business and Entrepreneurship
* STEM
* Arts, Culture & Design
* Teacher Development
* Health, Med-Tech & Sports
Medicine
These academies are the hallmark of
our new school. Students get early exposure to in-demand careers such as 3D
printing, medicine and business. We're

DAmag.me/partner
58 April 2018

We're creating a pipeline
of students with skills
that are sought after by
colleges and employers.
creating a pipeline of students with
skills that are sought after by colleges
and employers.
College model
Academy classes are taught in collegelike block schedules, by adjunct instructors who are experts in their fields. Our
higher education and industry partners
advise us on curriculum and create
real-world experiences for our students,
such as college visits, job shadowing and
internships.
Take our Arts, Culture and Design
Academy as an example. We partnered
with Berklee College of Music in Boston and TJ's Music in Fall River to
produce a curriculum that mirrors what
is taught to Berklee freshmen. Students
learn in a real recording studio at TJ's
Music. They are taught by industry experts and well-known record producers.
This opens doors for students by helping them gain connections.
We also have a wonderful partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, and use the school's Integrated Design Management (IDM) program. We worked closely with the lead
professor and duplicated the graduate
school IDM lab. One of his former students is now our adjunct professor. This
provides our students with an incredible
learning experience, and it benefits MIT

because we are creating a pipeline of
students interested in STEM careers.
We also want our students to earn
college credit for the work they do in
the academies. We have agreements
with three schools that if the quality and
integrity of the program meet the standards of the university, the students will
get elective credit toward graduation.
Much to do
Do we have everything figured out? No.
This approach is still in its infancy, but
we have proved it is possible to have
successful K12 and higher education
partnerships. We will graduate our first
class of seniors this spring. We will follow our grads closely to see how they
fare, and we will likely make adjustments to the program based on their
successes and feedback.
Our mission is to create a new
model for high school education, one
that can be duplicated at other schools
across the country. The partnership with
higher education and industry is critical
to ensuring our youth have the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in
our fast-changing, global economy. It's
how we created our curriculum, it's how
we now deliver the curriculum, and it's
how we will evaluate and adjust the curriculum moving forward.
We can't do this alone. It will take
collaboration and integration to help
students prepare for the challenges of
the future. We hope our efforts can provide a foundation for success that others
can build on. DA
Michael Lauro is associate executive director
of the Atlantis Charter School.
District Administration


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