Democrats are in the process of realigning educational reform to their beliefs. Their main goal is to move students out of schools which are failing students and which parents would not willing send their children. However, the real challenge for Democrats will be not to bow to political pressure to do things the way they have always been done, especially in Washington.
President Obama’s education initiative, Race to the Top, with a $100 billion increase in general federal aid to education, has been accepted by both parties all across the nation. His top two conditions for Race to the Top funding are charter schools (could be career academies at the high school level) and teacher merit pay. In fact, Arne Duncan, was probably chosen as Secretary of Education, because in Chicago he opened numerous charter schools.
These charter schools at the high school level, if they are structured as career academies, advocate thoughtful action for social justice, encourage parental choice, decrease the high school drop out rate, and endorse accountability by producing more students who are both ready for career and college. All of these initiatives that Democrats favor can be found in the current career academies.
The first initiative is advocating thoughtful action for social justice. All students should have equal opportunities in their education, but the space between the have and have-nots is ever-widening, even in schools. Career academies have both policies and teachers who care about all students along with a structure and curriculum in place that promotes student engagement, both in school and in the community. (For curriculum, read Sticky Learning, another book co-authored by Sandy Mittelsteadt.)
Parental choice is the second initiative. Because career academies are a school-within-a-school with a specific career theme or focus, academies must compete for students and make their program both attractive to students and parents in order for a student to elect to attend a particular academy. Competing academies have both improved the educational experiences and broadened the opportunities for their students.
Not dropping out of high school is another advantage of students who attend an academy. A more positive way to state this is that academy students are more apt to graduate from high school. Students in academies attend high school more often, probably because students elect to be in an academy, so they are more agreeable to attend school. The more students stay in class, the more they are motivated to learn. The more motivated students are, they more they are engaged in learning. The more engaged students are, the more they learn. This, them, becomes a circle: the more they learn, the more they are motivated to learn more. Students who graduate from high school are generally encouraged to attend college or post-secondary learning. This brings us to the next initiative.
The fourth initiative is that career academies endorse accountability by producing more students who are both ready for career and college. Students who feel they are college ready make an effort to attend college or receive post-secondary learning. Students who immediately go to work are more ready to learn and comply with company policy and any additional training that the company supplies.
Because career academies work is the major reason Democrats like career academies! They may require more time and resources in order to be successful, but Democrats feel career academies are well worth the effort. They are a time-tested strategy that results in more students who are successful in the real world.