Lucia Folk is the Senior Director of Public Affairs for CMT (Country Music Television), a cable television network distributed in 92 million homes across the country.
I’m lucky enough to have my dream job, which is utilizing CMT’s media platforms—television, radio, digital, etc.—to encourage our viewers to give back in their communities. So when our parent company, Viacom, partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation a few years ago to launch the Get Schooled Foundation with the goal of empowering young people to take charge of their education, I was excited to have a role in helping CMT support that mission.
In 2010, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) redesigned all 12 of its zoned high schools into smaller learning communities, enabling students to learn through the lens of a career or academic theme. CMT immediately saw the connection between this new initiative and our parent company’s ongoing mission, and we were one of the first business partners to step forward and offer our support. The Academies of Nashville* is an innovative approach to school redesign which engages the business community to help drive change in our public schools. We partnered with McGavock High School’s Academy of Digital Design & Communication, and over the past three years this relationship has been transformational, not only for the school, but also for our employees.
In the business world, we’ve heard for years that “our schools are failing and we need your help.” The only ways we knew to help were to throw money at the problem or do occasional volunteering that may impact small numbers of children. The Academies model provides a way for business partners to work alongside those on the frontlines educating our youth—our teachers and our school administrators—to make systemic change in our public schools. Business partners support the Academies by providing knowledge, support and experiential learning opportunities for our students, teachers and administrators.
You in the Career Technical Education (CTE) world have been connecting with businesses for years. In fact, the second principle of the CTE Vision is to actively partner with employers to design and provide high-quality, dynamic programs. You know the power of connecting education and industry. The Academies model is an especially innovative example because it utilizes business engagement at all levels, from working one on one at the grassroots level with individual Academies, all the way up to working alongside administrators in the school district.
At the school level, the Academies encourage and, frankly, require connectivity between what you teach in your CTE classes to the curriculum in the academic subjects. This is achieved through common planning among all disciplines, reinforced by business partnerships relevant to each Academy’s pathways. At the district level, business partners belong to partnership councils, which bring together employers in similar fields to ensure that what is being taught in the Academies directly relates to workforce needs. This partnership and shared accountability at all levels makes the Academies of Nashville unique, especially because this structure has been implemented “wall-to-wall” in all of our zoned high schools, providing every student access to these opportunities.
CMT is starting year four of our partnership and although we still have much work to do, McGavock has made tremendous progress since 2010: They have seen a 10 percent increase in the graduation rate; doubled the number of students who attend from outside of their zone; increased the composite ACT score by 5 percent; and made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for three years in a row (which they had not achieved for the 10 years prior to 2010/11). In addition to quantitative results, the real magic of the Academies structure is that it is community-building at its core. McGavock is our school and we share the challenges and successes with our teachers, administrators, fellow business partners, and most importantly, our students.
One of the proudest moments of my professional career was having the honor of standing on stage alongside our McGavock colleagues at this year’s commencement ceremony to congratulate the first graduating class of the CMT Academy of Digital Design & Communication. That’s what makes this my dream job: I, as well as my colleagues at CMT, have the privilege of partnering with McGavock to help our students find their dream jobs.
*If you want to learn more about the Academies of Nashville, there is a study visit planned for October 2-4, 2013 . There will also be another study visit offered in the spring of 2014. You can also learn more about the model on which the Academies are based at the Ford Partnership of Advanced Studies Next Generation Learning.
The Friends of CTE Guest Blog Series provides advocates – from business and industry to researchers and organizations – an opportunity to articulate their support for Career Technical Education. The monthly series features a guest blogger who provides their perspective on and experience with CTE as it relates to policy, the economy and education.
Are you interested in being a guest blogger and expressing your support for CTE? Contact Melinda Findley Lloyd, Communications Consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.