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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Affirms Economic and Academic Value of NAF Academies

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August 10, 2012 04:17 pm

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If you ’re like me and didn’t get a chance to see this speech live, check out U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speech at the National Academy Foundation’s (NAF) annual conference, which is embedded to the right.

Secretary Duncan’s remarks demonstrate both an appreciation and understanding of the benefits of career academies. Further, his remarks highlight the essential elements of what constitutes a high quality career academy, which are supported by volumes of research and practice. These elements include ensuring that academies are small learning communities designed around a theme; integrate rigorous academic and technical education; and provide youth a continuum of work-based learning opportunities that prepare youth for both college and career opportunities.

As leaders across the nation continue to grapple with how to spur economic development, career academies should not be overlooked.  Career academies not only help students develop the perspective and workplace skills that employers require, but they also have demonstrated success in engaging students and putting at-risk students on the path to graduation.

NAF has been a leader in this effort and has the results to back up the value of their work. Across their national network, NAF works in communities serving high percentages of students of color and low-income students, and has produced better student achievement and graduation outcomes than other programs serving comparable groups of students.

Secretary Duncan is right to lift up career academies and the work that NAF is doing as an example of a successful high school reform effort that can also help improve the nation’s economic situation. Further, the Administration is on the right track in requesting additional funding for these programs to spur their expansion. Although Congress failed to fund the Administration’s most recent request for a new billion dollar career academy program, the Administration should continue to push for this effective reform strategy: it is a winning issue for both students and the economy.

Ace Parsi is a policy and advocacy associate at the Alliance for Excellent Education
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