Students can get a taste of the business world at Hillsboro High School's international business academy, while aspiring physicians can develop clinical expertise at Hillwood High School's health academy and future techies can experiment with virtual networks at Overton High School's technology academy.
All 12 zoned high schools in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools system are working to get students career-minded in grades 9-12 through the Academies of Nashville program. Students take their regular classes while also enrolling in a highly personalized academy, which partners with area businesses, nonprofits and colleges to teach them about today’s and tomorrow’s careers and provide them with hands-on experience.
“Six years ago, Metro Schools decided that their high schools weren’t performing to the level of community expectation, with an overhaul needed for how high-school students learn in Nashville,” says Marc Hill, chief policy officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Academies model – a school within a school – was chosen, with the Nashville Chamber helping to get business leaders involved. This current school year, more than 150 businesses are partnering with Academies, and the Chamber engages 100 business leaders to serve on industry partnership councils that advise and develop the Academies.”
Graduation Rates Up
Students in the city's 12 high schools first learn about the program in ninth grade in a Freshman Academy, then are involved in the initiative in grades 10-12.
“For example, McGavock High School has a CMT Academy of Digital Design & Communication, so teachers integrate examples of design and communication into their algebra classes, history, English and so forth,” Hill says. “As a result, graduation rates are up and the dropout rate is down throughout Metro, and people across the country are contacting us for more information about The Academies of Nashville.”
From Orchestra to Rap
The Academies fall within five broad career groupings: arts, media and communications; business, marketing and information technology; engineering, manufacturing and industrial technology; health and public services; and hospitality and tourism. The groupings are based on the Chamber’s workforce projections of highly skilled jobs that will be created in the next 10 years in Nashville.
“And because Nashville is Music City, another program in place is Music Makes Us, with classes in country, rock and rap supplementing the traditional curriculum of orchestra, choir and band,” Hill says. “Instruction in songwriting, production and other skills such as DJ-ing have been added to music theory and other existing offerings – all to get students more engaged in their studies and feel more prepared for life after high school.”