Nov. 3, 2017

Health Science Academy at Crispus Attucks

ACTIVE LEARNING — The Health Sciences Academy at Crispus Attucks High School debuted during the 2017-18 school year. It is one of the six College- and Career-Themed Academies that IPS recently unveiled. The Health Sciences Academy features pathways in biomedical sciences, health informatics, physical therapy (above) and nursing. Below, students participating in the physcial therapy pathway learn about crutches and the proper way to use them.

In the 1960s, major U.S. cities — from Philadelphia to Indianapolis and beyond — experienced social and political unrest, fueled by poverty and racism. To combat this “new normal,” educators worked tirelessly to create ways to make high school more meaningful for students. In 1969, they created academies, linking core academic subjects to occupational themes.

Health Sciences Academy at Attucks

Today, nearly 50 years later, these institutions are known as career academies and, according to the National Academy Foundation, show significant positive effects for students in terms of employment and earnings after high school.

Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, the New IPS High School Experience will offer students in Grades 9-12 opportunities to tailor their education based on their career interests at one of the existing high-performing Choice programs or six new College- and Career-Themed Academy options at Arsenal Technical High School, Crispus Attucks High School, George Washington High School and Shortridge High School.

“College- and Career-Themed academies provide students with hands-on learning geared towards preparing them for in-demand careers,” said Benjamin Carter, district director of Career and Technical Education at IPS. “We want to ensure that students graduate with a verified 3Es —  Enrolled in a two- or four-year college or university, Enlisted in the armed services or Employed at a livable wage upon graduation — and that they are empowered to make informed career decisions.”

The six new College- and Career-Themed Academies include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Logistics Academy (at George Washington High School)
  • Business & Finance Academy (at George Washington High School)
  • Construction, Engineering & Design Academy (at Arsenal Technical High School)
  • Health Sciences Academy (at Crispus Attucks High School)
  • Information Technology Academy (at George Washington High School)
  • Teaching, Learning & Leading Academy (at Crispus Attucks High School)

IPS administrators determined the six new academy themes based on high-demand career fields, student interest, and employer and post-secondary input.

“We conducted an in-depth study of labor market trends, surveyed over 4,000 students to determine interests and took a close look at the landscape of local area employers and postsecondary partners,” said Carter. “Using these three data points, the field was narrowed to six key career sectors.”

Determining which academy should be housed at which school required additional analysis. “Academies were placed based on proximity to local employer partners to ensure student access to work-based learning experiences such as internships, job shadowing, jobsite tours, and mentoring,” said Carter. “In addition, the IPS operations team completed a comprehensive study of each facility’s capacity and ability to hold specific programs.”

All choice options, incuding the Academies, combine core academic subjects with career-technical elective classes related to the academy’s theme. These options include core classes in English, math, science, and social studies, but also allows students to focus on an area of study based on what they want to become professionally.

Since October, IPS has hosted workshops for students and parents to learn more about the New IPS High School Experience and academic programs to help them choose an academy and pathway that’s best for them. Counselors will also be available to answer questions and provide guidance during Showcase of Schools from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Indiana State Museum.

Some high school students, however, are already settled in their chosen academic pathways.

This fall, IPS launched its first College- and Career-Themed Academy, the Health Sciences Academy, on the Crispus Attucks campus. The Academy includes pathways in biomedical sciences, health informatics, physical therapy and nursing.

“It’s going well so far,” said Crispus Attucks Medical Career Academy Coordinator Mee Hee Smith. “We have a really diverse team that makes up the core professions in the academy, including seven new CTE instructors. Some are registered nurses (RNs) that are teaching, some are traditional teachers, and some are transitional teachers.” 

Smith said the intent next year is to integrate more health sciences curriculum into the Academy’s core content. “Math, for example, could be shaped around dosages or different things that relate to health sciences,” said Smith. “That’s the big push next year – full curriculum integration.”

Next year will also include the addition of the Teaching, Learning & Leading Academy at Attucks, with pathways in teaching professions and early childhood education.

Smith said choosing the right pathway is as important as choosing an academy.

“We want each student to understand the offerings and pathways of each academy,” she said. “Yes, we’re health science, but that can be broad. So we tell the kids, ‘If you’re really interested in lab skills and techniques or your goal is to become a physician, look at Project Lead The Way Biomedical Sciences. It has a national curriculum that’s very tight, has labs frequently, and provides lots of hands-on learning and interaction.’”

Nursing is also an option in the Health Sciences Academy. “A lot of students know what nursing is, but nursing has a clinical component, too,” said Smith. “So if your goal is to do something clinical – to become a physician or work with patients – becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) might be for you. CNA starts junior year, and many long-term care facilities hire at age 17. Those juniors in our nursing program can actually get a work-based learning experience during their senior year, coming to school for their last few credits in the morning and working the rest of the day. They gain 10 months of actual working experience while they’re in high school to build their resumes.”

College- and Career-Themed Academies prepare students for both college and a career. Given that 70 percent of high school students enroll in college immediately following high school, but only 33 percent actually attain a degree, preparing students to attend college, while also providing work-related preparation, helps boost their odds for a successful future.

“Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture as a high school student,” said Smith. “Giving students as much exposure as possible is the goal of the academies. With our CNA students, the goal is that they will pass their state licensure and hold a CNA license, and then they’ll be able to work. If they want to go to college right away, they can do both. That is our true goal – to help them to be marketable, employable, and have as many tangible skills that they can put to use or apply in college, the workplace or the military.”