Education Week - April 11, 2018 - 12
SCHOOLS & THE FUTURE OF WORK
School Enlists Businesses to Help Teens Find Their Passion
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Photos by Ackerman + Gruber for Education Week
ting big on its potential to keep students from
drifting half-heartedly through high school.
They're hoping that a clearer focus-whether
it's a passion for English literature or auto repair-can help students assemble a meaningful, cohesive course of study they can ride into
college, work, or more training.
Cindy Amoroso, the superintendent of the
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District, said
she doesn't want students making post-highschool plans based on unquestioned ideas.
"We want to disrupt assumptions about what
comes next after high school," she said.
What that's meant at Burnsville, a school
of 2,500 students in the southern suburbs
of Minneapolis, has been a huge influx of
involvement by local businesses. Most have
small- to medium-sized roles, sending experts
to talk to students, offering job-shadows, or,
in one case, donating leftover metal alloys to
be melted down and reused in the school's fabrication lab.
But some have gotten deeply involved in
shaping what goes on at school.
Firefly, a local credit union, trained students
in basic banking, opened a student-run branch
on campus, and helped write a curriculum
unit for 9th graders about personal finance.
Justin Jasperse, a senior, started working there eight hours per week after hearing
Firefly executives talk in his accounting class
about investment strategies and banking careers. He aims for a life in politics, and says
that his job at Firefly, where he helps students
open checking accounts and learn about budgeting, has helped him learn to "craft my message, to reach people."
Walser Automotive Group donated $275,000
to turn the school's old bus garage into a hightech paradise for engine repair and body work,
and has hired five students into full- or parttime jobs. Ryan Wolfe, a senior, brims with
pride as he points out welding and tire-balancing equipment at Burnsville High that's so
cutting-edge that most dealerships don't even
Making his way through the school's automotive-technology pathway has made Ryan
even more sure of his plan after high school:
to get his diesel mechanic certification from a
technical institute in Florida.
The local cable TV station has its office suite
on campus, and staffers teach students how
to run the cameras and audio boards. Justin
Amaker worked there last year, as a junior,
shouldering a camera at off-site events and
anchoring the school newscast. Now he's writing press releases as an intern for the school
district. He's thinking about a career in print
or broadcast journalism.
Local nursing homes have provided beds
and medical equipment, and the setting for
students to accrue clinical hours, all necessary
parts of earning certification as certified nursing assistants.
The reorganization has also meant rewriting the school's course catalog, so all elective classes fall into four broad career areas.
Within each career area are three or four
pathways, and a list of courses relevant to
On a recent afternoon, counselor Ashley
Welke met with 9th grader Cheyanne Gorney
to review her choice of electives for next year.
She listed Preschool lab, Child Psychology
1 and 2, Astronomy, and Human Anatomy.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP:
Hannah Cantrell, a senior in the
Media Production class, operates
one of the cameras during a live
television broadcast in the BCTV
Studio at Burnsville High School in
Burnsville senior Leslie Medina,
center, helps students deposit
money into their accounts at a
Firefly Credit Union branch office
that is located inside the school.
Student Nicholas Bollinger repairs a
broken device in the media center at
Burnsville High School. The school
partners with Best Buy for lessons
12 | EDUCATION WEEK | April 11, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Welke gently probed to see if this was a random sampling, or part of a cohesive strategy.
Cheyanne explained that she wants to write
science fiction, and also teach science to support herself. They discussed creating room for
a creative-writing course, and for prerequisites
to a new multicultural-education offering.
They agreed to review the course plan next
year. "Nothing's ever set in stone," Welke says.
There are no national figures on how many
partnerships businesses have with schools, but
experts agree that Burnsville has far more
And the school has something else few
schools have: a staff member whose main job
is to create and support those school-business
Kathy L. Funston worked for six years as the
district's curriculum director, but she changed
roles as the district began a review of its mission two years ago. Burnsville, the district's
only high school, had 30 business partners two
years ago. Funston has delivered a sevenfold
increase since then.
On a recent morning, Funston and Burnsville High Principal Dave Helke met with the
city's fire chief and community college leaders
to work on designing a new pathway for students to earn certifications as emergency medical technicians.
The next day, she gathered at the chamber
of commerce with business leaders who are
co-facilitating a new, five-session after-school
program that will confer certificates showing
that students have mastered workplace skills
such as reliability and a good attitude.
Some of those same businesses are also
working with Funston and Helke to create
a summer "externship" to bring Burnsville
teachers into their workplaces to give them
ideas about infusing real-world work skills into
Kate Kreamer, the deputy executive director
of Advance CTE, a group that represents state