Education Week - April 11, 2018 - 13
career-technical-education directors, said it's
rare that schools carve out a position like Funston's, but more are starting to do so.
"We've never seen business partnerships
sustained at scale without having someone
whose job it is to think about them and make
them happen," she said. "It's the secret sauce."
Close relationships between schools and
businesses can create questions, however. Alex
Molnar, a research professor at the University
of Colorado-Boulder, and the director of the
Commercialism in Education center there, believes schools must answer a central question
before allowing business partners to shape
what goes on in classrooms.
"Is this something you want your students
to be doing, even in the absence of a business
partner?" he asked. "If the answer is yes, that's
a good starting point. If it's no, that's a warning flag."
Link to Real-World Work
Funston is confident that Burnsville's partnerships are grounded firmly in what's best for
"We still own the curriculum," she said. "We
don't turn over the reins and say 'Teach what
you want.' We still have to teach our academic
standards. What these businesses can add is
the practical application of the content."
At Firefly, about 150 students have opened
accounts since the on-campus branch opened
a year ago, said Martin J. Kelly, its senior vice
president for marketing. The aim of the partnership wasn't about profit-"if we opened that
branch for profit, we'd be kidding ourselves,"
he said-or branding, although the campus
branch window bears a version of the credit
union's logo, "Life Illuminated."
The credit union's partnership with Burnsville sprang from a desire to build a base of
financial literacy in young people, Kelly said.
A "delightful byproduct" of the project has been
hiring eight students to work part-time for the
credit union, he said.
That link to real-world work is one of the
things Burnsville leaders prioritized when
they reworked their school two years ago.
They realized they offered few options for
students who didn't want four-year degrees.
College dropout and remediation rates suggested that college-bound students weren't
flourishing after high school. In a swirl of
community meetings and surveys, families
said they wanted good rigorous classes, but
with more real-world, career-oriented planning and experience.
After a big outreach campaign in 2015,
the Burnsville community-where half
of students come from poverty-approved
a $64 million bond levy for facilities and
equipment, and a $25 million levy over 10
years for technology. The money allowed
Burnsville High to add 150,000 square feet
of space to its building, decked out with
state-of-the-art equipment and f lexible
classroom spaces. Re-envisioning the course
catalog and career pathways was part of
The high school has commissioned an independent, seven-year evaluation of its pathways
That project is only in its second year, but
preliminary results show a mixed bag. Four
in 10 students report that the approach helps
them focus better on career ideas. But 6 in 10
didn't even try career-pathways courses, and
nearly one-third of those who did say they
weren't that interesting or exciting.
School leaders don't yet know the racial or
socioeconomic breakdown of students by pathway, a key unanswered question for school
leaders who want to disrupt, not replicate,
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old vocational-education tracks that relegated
some students to dead-end, low-paying jobs
and pointed others toward college.
As the pathways approach develops, it generates questions for students that can be as valuable as the answers. Sundus Farah, a junior,
is taking classes to earn her credential as a
certified nursing assistant, but that might be
just her first step.
Sundus harbors a passion for ophthalmology, and might want to go on to medical school.
Meanwhile, she says she's "sampling" the offerings in the school's medical pathway.
"I like that I can test it out while I'm still
in high school," she said. "I have friends who
went to college and it was a disaster," with
dropouts and costly time spent trying to figure out a direction. She wants to avoid those
Emma Hovde found clarity in a 9th grade
introduction-to-programming course: She
hated it. But she found her calling in a marketing class that same year. She got really
excited working with Firefly on the finance
curriculum, and on the credit union's marketing campaign to launch the campus office. Now in 10th grade, Emma lights up
as she talks about her plans for a career in
business or finance.
"It's great to have a real-world situation
when I'm figuring it out," she said. "When
you're doing that actual thing that you're
learning [in school], you realize, 'Oh, that's
what I want to do.' Or you realize, 'No, it's not.'
And that's just as important."
We want to disrupt
what comes next
after high school."
Education Week Librarian Maya Riser-Kositsky
contributed to this report.
Visit the High School & Beyod blog, which tracks
news and trends on this issue.
the Role of assessment in
assessment is critical to
understanding the strengths
and needs of individual students.
deep-dive into the role of
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Content provided by
* Colleen Haag, teacher and tech coach,
unami middle school, Chalfont, pa.
* lindsay Henry, educational technology
specialist, morris school district,
* JosepH a. monastero, executive
director of instructional & administrative
technology, Cold spring Harbor Central
school district, Cold spring Harbor, n.y.
* Kelly dean, K-12 product strategy,
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EDUCATION WEEK | April 11, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 13