A New Model for High School Curriculum
(ARA) - As high schools across the country try to carry out the Bush
administration’s “no child left behind” policy while facing
ever-shrinking budgets, East Ridge High School in Chattanooga, Tenn.
has created a program that gets part of its funding from the local
construction industry. Best of all, the program has proved effective
for students who might otherwise not thrive with a traditional high
The Construction Career Academy is based on a
model of a modified “school within a school” that is organized
around a construction career theme. The program integrates
curriculum, applied academics, work-based learning, team teaching
and partnerships with employers, community and higher education.
East Ridge’s academy connects the core academic subjects with a
particular field of study and provides avenues to explore a variety
of construction opportunities.
The academy, which opened in fall 2002 with 50
students, is sponsored by the Associated General Contractors of
America, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents the
construction industry and the AGC of East Tennessee, one of the
association’s local chapters. Enrollment for the 2004 school year is
projected to be 75 to 100 students as the program is being expanded
to include sophomores. The school’s mission is to prepare students
in grades 10 through 12 for the future by providing a foundation in
academics, broad exposure to the construction industry and relevant
vocational education preparation.
“Students can pursue either a construction
apprenticeship or a college path,” says AGC spokesperson Dennis Day.
“Both paths lead to many career opportunities in construction:
project manager, craftworker, designer, engineer, field supervisor,
inspector and suppliers are just a few of the careers related to the
Career academies differ from traditional
vocational education in that they prepare high school students for
both college and work. Academies remove the distinction between
college prep and vocational tracks, bringing together students who
are usually separated. Students become more interested in subjects
such as math or science when they see how these disciplines are
applied in the real world. “I think the Construction Academy has
helped me a lot. My math grade has improved. I even like coming to
school more,” says student Darren Camp.
Enrollment in the Construction Career Academy is
open to students from any of the county’s high schools, but students
must apply for a spot in the program. This includes a written
application, letters of recommendation and an interview with
instructors and construction industry representatives.
Teachers welcome the opportunity to get involved
in the academy as well. “When I first heard of the Construction
Academy concept, I was fascinated,” says English instructor Denise
Hearn. “For some time I had struggled to engage students in English
class and to show them the relevance of the class in relation to
their future lives and jobs.” She reports that she has seen a direct
correlation between the working world and the skills her students
are asked to master in English.
Chattanooga is not the only community that is
adopting construction education alternatives. A new Charter School
has recently opened in St. Louis. While Charter Schools are not a
new concept, the new high school, called Construction Careers
Center, focuses on construction, but stresses academics. Set in a
run-down elementary school, which sat abandoned for many years,
students repair the facility between science, math and English
The Careers Center is producing good results. The
first graduating students will be in 2005 and are guaranteed an
entry to an apprenticeship program of their choice. “AGC and our
chapters across the country are challenging students to reach their
maximum potential and provide a positive environment. East Ridge
High School and the Construction Careers Center are prime examples
of how the construction industry is exploring ways to reach students
and get them interested in the construction industry,” says Day.
For more information on construction education
opportunities, contact The Associated General Contractors of America
Courtesy of ARA Content