A look inside an innovative high school

How a charter school's career academies meet the challenges of a changing workplace

High school graduation is one of the big milestones of life. Regardless of the destination, the transition is a major one. To ensure the transition is successful, schools must work to give their students the skills and knowledge they will need when they enter college or the 21st-century workplace.

At Atlantis Charter School in Fall River, Massachusetts, we are taking an innovative approach toward education to help ensure that happens. Working with a coalition of partners from higher education, business, and industry, we designed a high school curriculum that addresses the growing skills gap that exists in education today so that students are prepared for what is expected of them in college and beyond. The cornerstone of our high school is five school-to-career academies. They are:

  • STEM
  • Health, Med-Tech & Sports Medicine
  • Arts, Culture & Design
  • Teacher Development
  • Business and Entrepreneurship

How our Career Academies work
The Career Academies are not vocational schools. The classes are taught along with a traditional college-preparatory curriculum, including honors and advanced placement classes. Freshmen and sophomores get an introduction to each academy, and they choose one track for their junior and senior years.

In the academies, students learn by doing. Each academy is designed to give students a hands-on educational experience. Take our Health, Med-Tech & Sports Medicine Academy as an example. A portion of the class is dedicated to instructional time, but students then practice what they just learned on a robotic SimMan. It’s a realistic, adult-sized, wireless patient simulator that teaches students about airway, breathing, cardiac and circulation management. We found the technology on a visit to Harvard Medical School and it was a perfect tool to give our students an advantage as they prepare to enter the medical field.

In addition to classroom learning, our coalition partners welcome our students to their campuses and businesses for job shadowing. Students in the Arts, Culture and Design Academy recently toured the world-class facilities at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The visit was arranged by Prince Charles Alexander, an award-winning record producer and former recording artist who is a professor of music production at Berklee and also serves as an adviser to Atlantis.

Students explored various principles of acoustics, recording equipment and production techniques. They got to see what it would be like to be a student at Berklee. Field trips like this one give our students the opportunity to see how what they are studying in school can be applied to a future job.

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