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County schools to benefit from Ford

POSTED August 11, 2009 11:13 p.m.
Stanislaus County can now count itself among just 14 counties in the nation to be designated as a Next Generation Learning Community by the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies.
Ford PAS, a wing of Ford Motor Company’s Fund and Community Services philanthropic and community relations arm, bestowed the designation for the county’s, “willingness to align community resources and link local workforce and economic development efforts with relevant high school reform.”
As a NGLC, Stanislaus County will have access to an award-winning high school curriculum — drafted by Ford PAS — that aims to involve students and teachers in real world projects that offer preparation for college and careers. A Ford PAS advisory team will also help the county to enact such a curriculum, supporting efforts to connect with local employers and sponsoring professional development for educators.
“In an increasingly competitive world, it is important for students to have rigorous, engaging educational opportunities that not only help them perform academically but also provide them with marketable skills that prepare them for futures in high-skill, high-wage industries in their communities,” said Ralph Curtus, Chairman of the Alliance Workforce & Education Committee. “We are thrilled that our community is being supported by Ford Motor Company Fund and the Ford PAS program.”
Stanislaus County’s community plan will see the 26 local public school districts work with the Alliance to create a network of high school career academies. These career academies will combine academics with technical training and career exploration aligned with the area’s future workforce and economic development needs.
According to Ford PAS, students at career academies are generally more interested in their studies due to the emphasis on everyday applications of class work.
“Students who learn in career academies are able to understand the real-world context to their studies and also gain important skills needed in the workplace, such as critical-thinking, problem-solving, working in teams, and communication,” said Tom Changnon, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools.
According to Ford PAS, NGLC students enjoy lower dropout rates than standard high schools. More students also move on to higher education, and those that do not are prepared to enter the workforce, “fully prepared for the demands of the 21st –Century economy.”
For the Turlock Unified School District’s high schools, the career academies will likely function as a “school within a school,” according to Alice Pollard, TUSD Principal of Adult and Career Education.
The District already has a Career Pathways program in place which allows students to specialize their elective study in fields such as business, agriculture, or engineering, but the career academies concept would go farther than the career pathways currently do.
In an ideal setting, all of the students in the same career emphasis would have the same class schedule, Pollard said. Core curriculum classes would be modified to compliment what is being taught in career technical education courses.
Despite a belief that career academies represent the future of Turlock education and the support of Ford PAS, the programs are not likely kick off for some time.
“It’s something that’s going to be down the road because I think so many school districts are going to be faced with budget cuts at this time,” Pollard said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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