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ACE Academy Declared a State Model

State and local officials gathered at Jordan High School in Long Beach recently to honor the school’s Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Academy for being among the first in California to achieve Linked Learning Certification.  The certification effort, headed by educational nonprofit ConnectEd, assures that the high school is combining rigorous academics with real world experiences that prepare students not only for college, but also for high-paying, high-demand jobs.

Linked Learning pathways combine challenging academics, demanding technical courses, and work-based learning focused around an industry theme such as arts and media, engineering or biomedicine.  These pathways connect learning with students’ interests and career aspirations, leading to higher graduation rates, increased college enrollments, higher earning potential, and greater civic engagement.

“Today marks a major milestone for what has truly been a community effort in North Long Beach,” Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools for the Long Beach Unified School District, said at the event.  “The ACE Academy shows what we can accomplish when we all work together for our youngsters.  We celebrate this moment with Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who was instrumental in launching the academy.  We also share the credit with our partners in industry and the trades, our private funders such as the Irvine Foundation, our hardworking staff and students, and our elected Board of Education, which has made programs like the ACE Academy a top priority as part of our districtwide Academic and Career Success Initiative.”

The ACE Academy opened with 50 students in fall 2007 and now serves 270 students.

“I’m delighted that the ACE Academy is among the first in the state to receive this recognition,” Mayor Foster said.  “Only a few months ago, we celebrated the first graduating ACE Academy class.  And now the Linked Learning Certification shows that the academy’s hands-on learning has tremendous worth in our schools and in today’s working world.”

Joining Foster at the certification ceremony were Assemblymember Isadore Hall (D-Los Angeles), LBUSD Board of Education member Mary Stanton, ConnectEd officials, and Jordan High School students and staff.  State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell congratulated the school via video.

“Congratulations to the ACE Academy for being recognized here today for the Linked Learning Certification, and to the entire district for their embrace of this very important concept,” O’Connell said.  “It truly is transformational, and you’re looking at the schools of the future, today.”

The ACE Academy, modeled after a successful program at Kearny High School in San Diego, features internships and apprenticeships with employers while students concurrently enroll in Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach classes.  Jordan High has shown significant gains under the program, including a 13-point gain this year on the state’s Academic Performance Index.

To become a Linked Learning certified pathway, the school had to meet the vast majority of the certification criteria or indicators that the school has created the optimal environment for improving student achievement and engagement.  ConnectEd, a statewide hub for the Linked Learning field, and its partners — the National Academy Foundation, the National Career Academy Coalition, and the Career Academy Support Network at the University of California, Berkeley — established and managed the certification process for Linked Learning pathways.  In considering Jordan’s ACE Academy for certification, reviewers observed:

• ACE Academy provides students with curriculum that uses real work-based concepts to make learning relevant.

• ACE Academy has a strong academic  core (a-g college entrance coursework) that is clearly integrated with Career and Technical Education (CTE) coursework.

• The multi-disciplinary integration was evident throughout classroom observations and validated during student interviews.

• The program of study includes clear evidence of interdisciplinary problem and project-based curriculum.

• ACE students are scheduled as a cohort to promote multi-disciplinary projects.

Reviewers found that the ACE Academy is strongly supported by district and site administration, and by a dedicated onsite academy coordinator.  The academy also boasts a strong industry advisory committee and post-secondary connections that have the potential to provide all academy students with a clear map leading to career success, reviewers reported.

The Academy includes “a strong program design; an enthusiastic, collaborative academic and CTE staff; a personalized learning environment; engaged students; and innovative leverage of funds to ensure sound program implementation,” reviewers stated.

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ACE STUDENTS — Roman Stearns, director of leadership development for ConnectEd, visits with students at the ACE Academy of Long Beach, located at Jordan High School.  ACE students earn college credit while in high school, and they gain real-world work experience in architecture, construction and engineering.  ACE is among the first programs of its kind.