College preparation for our students through community engagement

Chelsea Parker is the Smaller Learning Communities Program Manager at Metro Nashville Public Schools. Her work focuses on building community partnerships for the Academies of Nashville. She also supports professional development for teachers and leads marketing and communications for Academies of Nashville programs and events. Before joining MNPS, Parker was the Director of Business Engagement in Education at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, where she designed high-profile events such as the MNPS Career Exploration Fair and collaborated in the development of longterm strategies for sustainable high school reform in Nashville. Beginning last week and continuing through the end of April, she shares thoughts on how the Academies of Nashville provide career-based college preparation. Today's post focuses on how the structure of the Academies of Nashville supports college preparation. By structuring the high school curriculum around project-based learning and hands-on application, the Academies of Nashville prepare students for success in college and careers by providing knowledge, skills, and work habits that are crucial for success in the classroom and working world. Career-themed instruction improves students’ ability to understand the relevance of their education and encourages them to plan early for the post-secondary opportunities they will need to fulfill their professional and personal goals. In Nashville, we prepare students for college by providing career exploration earlier, restructuring high schools to bring academic studies to bear on real-world problems, and fostering community engagement.

Academies of Nashville Tennessee My Future My Way

The role of community support in college preparation

The Nashville community’s support is critical for rigorous Academies that facilitate college preparation. The Harvard Graduate School of Education's study Pathways to Prosperity identifies community engagement as the crucial link: “If we could develop an American strategy to engage educators and employers in a more collaborative approach to the education and training of the next generation of workers, it would surely produce important social as well as economic returns on investment" (pp. 38). As the primary stakeholder, the Nashville community supports education and reinforces professional skills and work habits that will enable students to be successful in college.

Engaging community partners

The Academies of Nashville depend on a close relationship with the community to provide students with educational experiences that contribute to their longterm goals. Hundreds of local professionals support the academies through volunteering, donating, and sharing their knowledge with academy students. Academy partners work with teachers and students to customize real-world learning experiences. The Teacher Team Externship Program allows teachers to work hand-in-hand with local businesses to experience professional working environments, create realistic project-based curricula, and embed 21st-Century Skills into their classrooms. Six broad Partnership Councils, facilitated by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, advise academies to ensure that they align with college and career requirements. The Chamber’s CEO Champions—a group co-chaired by the mayor—provide high-level advocacy. Broad community support and high-level leadership allow the most dynamic minds in Nashville to play a role in preparing students for the realities of tomorrow by showing them that their high school studies are an important step in planning for the future.

By structuring the high school curriculum around application-based learning in context, the Academies of Nashville prepare students to face the challenges of post-secondary education and the working world. We live in an increasingly connected and interdependent world, and the academies provide students not only with the necessary academic training to understand that world, but also the interpersonal and communicative skills they will need to work in the professional and intellectual environments of the twenty-first century.