DPS Embarks on Redesigning the High School Experience
Colorado’s economy is growing, and with that, so is the way DPS is approaching college and career readiness — one of our Denver Plan 2020 goals. At the November 2 Focus on Achievement session the Board of Education explored the challenges and emerging solutions for preparing students to succeed in a global economy. DPS believes students can be both college AND career ready, and we’re redesigning the high school experience to reflect the many options students have to realize their dreams.
“When you talk about redesigning the high school experience, you have to think about change management and the culture shift that has to happen in schools,” said Board President Anne Rowe. “The student is in control of their future as opposed to institutions deciding. This is significant and important change.”
Through rigorous coursework and high standards, DPS is ensuring our graduates will enter college remediation-free and can begin their careers with the professional skills needed to succeed.
How are we supporting them along the way? The board discussed two key challenges tonight:
“The great news is, the district’s graduation rates continue to climb year-over-year, and we are already just 53 graduates away from our 2020 goal of the number of students graduating college and career ready!” shared Nicole Veltzé, instructional superintendent of the Division of Secondary Education.
Apprenticeship Pilot Brings Highly-successful Swiss Model to Denver Students
Thanks to Denver voters and community partnerships, more students are able to apply for and experience what it’s like to work in an industry they’re interested in before they graduate, as they split their time between the classroom and workplace. Through a partnership with CareerWise Colorado, DPS is in its pilot year of the CareerResidency Youth Apprenticeship Program, a model based on the highly-successful Swiss apprenticeship system.
In the apprenticeship program, students spend two to three days per week with employers and have the opportunity to simultaneously earn their high school diploma, free college credit and an industry certificate. Completing an apprenticeship provides students with several pathways to continued success – whether that’s the workforce after graduation, continued training for specialized certifications, or continuing their higher education at a four-year college.
And the program is expanding, to more schools and more students, and will be available in the 2018-19 school year at Abraham Lincoln High School, Career Education Center (CEC) Early College, Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design (DSISD), High Tech Early College, West Leadership Academy and West Early College.
Permeable Pathways Keep Options Open for Students
Students take many paths to achieve success, and the district is committed to providing a plethora of personalized options to support students.
The concept of multiple, permeable pathways was introduced as an integral component of our college and career readiness strategy. The idea is to give students many choices along the journey to graduation and beyond while providing on- and off-ramps for when they change their minds or want to explore other options. Early exposure to career options helps students understand what is possible, while college and career programs and advisors help them put together a plan to get there.
Students are provided opportunities to engage in the workforce, take free college classes through concurrent enrollment and the recently-expanded Early College model, earn industry certificates, sharpen professional skills and even learn a new language — all of which will help them stand out on college admissions and career endeavors.
Perspectives Shared From Throughout the District
The board heard perspectives about college and career readiness from a panel of students, businesses and school leaders participating in the CareerResidency Youth Apprenticeship Program:
“We have to rethink school, and move away from the traditional thinking that you have to have separate subjects, like math and then English and then science classes, but to integrate those subjects together in a way that is meaningful to a career field that kids want to explore — that is project-based learning and residency apprenticeship,” said Parrish.
Asked what attracted students to the program, Bolz-Weber said: “The opportunity to get ahead and the work experience made me want to do this, because even if I went to college, I wouldn’t have a job because I wouldn’t have the work experience.” He urged the board to make the program “bigger and better, with more kids, more businesses and more pathways. It really is amazing.”
With the growth in Colorado’s economy, transformative programs like the CareerResidency Youth Apprenticeship Program and early college help break down financial barriers, provide permeable pathways for all students, and create a highly-skilled and educated workforce that meets the complex demands of Colorado companies, now and in the future.
See the full presentation here.