George Lucas Educational Foundation

Merging Career Tech with College Prep: Why We Chose These Schools

A checklist of essential qualities for career academies in Edutopia's "Schools That Work" series.
Kathy Baron
Former Edutopia reporter and editor, mother of two.
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Our Schools That Work series explores what goes on at some of the most innovative, successful schools around the country. These range from schools with long-standing records of high performance to turnaround schools now on the road to substantially higher achievement. We visit each school to take a close-up look at its best practices and the specific challenges it faces, then we assemble a package of stories and hands-on tools that you can use to replicate some of the school's successes.

Even before we choose a school, we give it a hard look to make sure it delivers the kind of creative, effective, replicable practices that Edutopia can stand behind. Here's a quick look at the standards and the strengths we saw at Laguna Creek and Sheldon High Schools in California’s Elk Grove Unified School District, and at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Los Angeles.

  Minimal Moderate Strong
Cohesive school culture with high expectations     x
Focus on 21st-century skills and themes     x
Use of project learning and integrated studies     x
Availability and meaningful use of technology     x
High student achievement and engagement     x
High or improving scores on standard measures   x  
Use of authentic assessment with real-world application     x
Emphasis on inquiry and student-directed learning, rather than only teacher-directed learning   x  
Collaborative planning among teachers     x
Personalized instruction and regular use of assessment to shape teaching and learning   x  
Culture of trust fostered between staff and students     x
Teachers given input and leadership in shaping school improvement     x
Relevant, ongoing professional development tailored to individual teacher's needs     x
Meaningful involvement of parents and community members   x  
Track record of sustained success for at least two years     x
Eagerness among staff to share best practices and help other schools replicate their success     x

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