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Yuba County Career Preparatory Charter School: The Team-Teaching Career Academy « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Yuba County Career Preparatory Charter School: The Team-Teaching Career Academy

Yuba Country Career Preparatory Charter School:
The Team-Teaching Career Academy

Yuba County Career Preparatory Charter School

Marysville, California
Founded 1999
475 students
Grades K-12
Site-based and independent study    
47% White, 29% Hispanic, 12% Native American, 6% African American, 3% Asian, 3% Other
3% English language learners
18% special needs
73% receive subsidized meals
Teachers belong to a collective bargaining unit

[web site n/a]

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2008.

In a former car dealership in Marysville, Calif., Yuba County Career Prep blends career technical education with rigorous academic classes for students with vocational interests who have not succeeded at regular public schools.

On what was once the show room floor, 15 learning stations host teachers and students for independent study from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Renovated auto-repair bays house the Automotive Academy
and the Construction Academy, both schools within a school.

In seven years, Yuba County Career Prep has expanded from one career academy to three, requiring an additional location for the Business Academy. The student body has grown from 50 students to 475: 400 independent study students and 25 students in each of the career academies, a promising practice that meets both student interest and the needs of the local economy.

Implementation

The main goal of the Team-Teaching Career Academy is to make academics relevant to the students through the career focus. Both teachers in each academy receive a printout of the state standards at the beginning of each summer and are required to develop a rigorous four-year plan. Character-based education is also fundamental because many students do not have positive adult role models to help them with social skills such as proper work attire and speech. 

Each of the three Team-Teaching Career Academies is self-contained. Students remain with the same teachers for the seven-hour school day, spending the final two hours each day in the shop or on internship.

The Automotive Academy, founded when the school opened in 2000, is a facility with two rooms: a classroom and an auto shop that opens to the outdoors for extra work space. An academic teacher is in charge of the classroom lesson plan with support from the automotive teacher; in the auto shop, their roles reverse.

Opened in 2002, the Construction Academy facility consists of a main classroom; a computer lab with Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) software; and a shop with attached yard, where students build a storage shed for the school district as a project. The academic teacher and construction teacher support each other as done in the Automotive Academy.

The Business Academy is housed in the ground floor of a former beauty school in the Marysville Business District, 2.5 miles south of the main campus. There is no shop area, as students intern each afternoon at local businesses.

The academic teacher is in charge of the lesson plan during the classroom portion of the day. At the same time, the business teacher works in a smaller room, pulling students out of the main classroom to review internship requirements and practice specific job skills. The business teacher also travels to work sites to monitor student progress. Business owners fill out a biweekly Student Progress Sheet, which the business teacher reviews with the student.

Requirements

Two crucial elements of the promising practice are costly: the staffing structure of two teachers per classroom, and the equipment necessary for setting up the shops.

A teacher pointed out that most discipline is handled in the classroom, which allows the site principal and assistant principal to spend more time training teachers and maintaining the school’s focus.

Yuba County Career Prep teachers have needed to be good role models who can work well with at-risk students and communicate well and often with their parents or guardians. They also have needed to work closely with the other team teacher

Depending on the focus of the academy, facilities can be a challenge. The former car dealership converted well to the Auto Academy and Construction Academy. The auto bay doors open to outside work areas, where projects and equipment can be rolled out to during class time and returned to the bays for storage. However, securing funds to improve and modernize the building has been difficult.

All teachers at Yuba County Career Prep attend a weekly staff development meeting of 90 to 120 minutes. They also spend two hours during the week working on integrating curriculum and instruction within each academy. Administrators and teachers also attend different career and vocational conferences every year.

Lessons Learned

Each of the academies has changed from their original templates. Initially, administrators thought the Automotive Academy would repair cars and other small engines, but due to student requests and teacher interest, they began building hot rods. Exposure during local car shows resulted in increased donations to the Yuba County Career Prep program, significant sponsorships and encouraging visits from an automotive designer.
Due to lack of resources, the Construction Academy originally began fixing houses in the community, working with other organizations to rebuild damaged properties. As the program developed and materials were purchased and donated, the students began creating structures of their own: a better way to apply the academics.

The Business Academy’s student internship was launched in the 10 a.m. to noon time slot, which didn’t work for the school or the businesses. After communicating with the businesses, the internships were moved to 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  The academy also broadened its scope, creating large-scale projects with downtown businesses.

In the early years of the Team-Teaching Career Academies, it was difficult for teachers to maintain high expectations for student performance. The principal credits finding the right teachers and allowing them a few years’ experience with the schools’ improvement. Loaning teachers with certain subject strengths to other academies within the school has also helped.

Some of the greatest challenges for students were not academic but behavioral; originally, the teachers had to force students to dress well and not spit or use profanity.  As a result, student behavior changed, to the extent of noticing bad behavior in their peers.

Students benefit from the adult relationships and connections they develop as part of the Team-Teaching Career Academies: both in the stability of the classroom environment, which they may not have at home, and in the community network, from business internships to car clubs.

Finally, all teachers interviewed agreed that they learned to hold the shop portion of the class at the end of the instructional day.  “The carrot here is the shop,” a teacher said. “You always have to hold it out there: If the students are misbehaving, they may lose part of their shop time.”

Conclusion

Yuba County Career Prep measures the success of the Team-Teacher Career Academy in several ways. The school’s API rose 50 points in the 2006-2007 school year, and an increased number of students pass the high school exit exam.

Students go on to full-time employment in their fields, and many graduates return to tutor other students, reflecting both a work ethic and a value placed on education.   

Finally, parents and guardians observe improved academics, behavior, and attendance from students enrolled in the Career Academies.  The principal has said, “The feedback I get from the parents is ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ Their child has been thrown out of other schools around here, but is now doing well.”

Address

Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
3470 Trousdale Parkway
Waite Phillips Hall, Room 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
Fax: (213) 740-4184
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