Pathways to success for every student at WCHS
Beginning next school year, Woodford County High School will implement an academy system that offers college and career pathways for all students. “One of the things that we value most about our school is being an all-inclusive, comprehensive school,” said Principal Rob Akers. “And we felt like we had some pretty good elements out there, but we weren’t bringing everybody into the same system. And that was our goal – to create a system that was all-inclusive.” Akers and some of his teachers visited Hardin Valley High School in Knoxville, Tenn., which offers an academy for every student. Teachers also researched what other academy schools are doing. Most importantly, Akers said teachers are driving how an all-inclusive academy system will look at WCHS. They participated in a two-day retreat last summer to discuss options on how to implement an academy system for all students. “We had a real frank, open discussion,” said Akers. “Does our current structure really meet the needs of all of our kids? And we agreed that we could do more and do it differently.” Two years ago, the Academy at WCHS was created to offer an accelerated program for high-achieving students, according to Akers. He described the program, including a partnership with Georgetown College that allows WCHS students to earn college credits, as a good start. But he and his faculty wanted to do better for all students. “We didn’t feel like what we had put into place – as kind of the first step – really embodied what we as a school believe,” said Akers. “We want every kid college- or career-ready. And we want to have rigor and inclusion for everyone – teachers and students.” By having four different academies (science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math: STEAM; liberal arts; business, law and communications; health and human services), WCHS seeks to offer learning opportunities for every student. Three pathways – post-secondary, college prep and professional – will help prepare every student for a career or college, according to Akers. “We still have kids who are sitting there on the fence, waiting to be pulled off and be engaged into what we’re doing here,” said Akers. “And by creating different pathways that tap into their interests, I think we have a better chance of doing that.” He said an academy system also creates smaller learning communities for students so they feel more connected to what they’re doing. “It’s really trying to re-tailor our curriculum to be more relevant, to be more interest-driven … so that the kids will be more engaged and, hopefully, (they’ll) find themselves wanting to achieve at higher levels,” said Akers. Assistant Principal John Darnell described an academy system and its four pathways for students as a natural progression for a high school seeking to ensure all of its graduates are college or career ready when they get their diplomas. “The faculty feels like if we can get kids into something like this,” explained Darnell, “that’s how to best prepare them for whatever they’re going to pursue after high school…” The academy system will include an advisor-advisee system so students have a teacher as a resource when they’re making decisions about what they might want to do once they leave WCHS. In January, the high school will begin hosting informational meetings for parents about the new academy system being implemented next school year. Teams of teachers worked on the structures for each of the four pathways in the academy system, Akers said.