Is your school, like so many others, thinking of leveraging community partnerships for real world, student-choice learning? If so, read on!
About four years ago, Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, TX launched their Professional Schools Program (PSP) in grades 9-12. I visited them just before the launch, and revisited yesterday to get an update. You can learn a lot of details from their website, but here is a summary of what I can only call a Gold Standard program of “learning in and with the community”.
The PSP comprises five “schools”: Business, Medicine, Engineering and Technology, Humanities, and Fine Arts. After a number of introductions to each area of focus, 9th graders select into one of these “majors”, each of which comes with a set of creative course options in addition to core graduation requirements. Students can change their PSP at any point, and they can design an inter-school, interdisciplinary option. Unlike some other schools with similar programs, the PSP is for everyone, not just honors-level students.
During grades 9-11, students find and take courses within their area of focus. Dozens of outside speakers are brought in each year to help students contextualize their learning with real-world experience. Then, in 12 grade, students can select a 6 month internship that is preceded by 6 weeks of training for expectations in the working world. When LCA launched this project, they had immediate participation from more than 70 parents and extended family, offering their companies and work venues for these internships. Today, about 90% of seniors elect to do an internship, which culminates in full assessment, a written summary of their learning and a community presentation.
In talking with members of the leadership team, there are several key takeaways other than the obvious rich experiences that these students receive through the PSP:
- These internships are authentic; students get real hands-on experience and are evaluated by their “employers”.
- Students may be more willing and likely to approach prospective mentors in college due to their comfort in that kind of relationship.
- Parents immediately recognized the validity of this program and are supporting it with widespread and diverse internship opportunities.
- LCA is starting to design ways to move the PSP model down to the middle school in appropriate ways; and there is at least thought-level discussion about what it might look like in a post-secondary structure.
LCA has begun a new strategic design process, with the leading idea to “courageously deconstruct the industrialized model of education…”. The PSP is an example of this deconstruction, replacing a canned one-size-fits-all program for something that has a powerful combination of students voice and choice, real-world learning, and learning-beyond-campus, three of the core elements of a transformed learning model.
In my opinion, LCA is amongst the relatively small percentage of schools that both imagine courageously and implement robustly. And I know they are willing to share. If your school is thinking about leveraging real-world learning via extensive and authentic community learning resources, reach out to LCA; connect with Head of School Bill McGee, Assoc, Head of School Kevin Mosely, or Chief Academic Officer Daniel Townsley.