High School Redesign Theme Based Academies

Four Theme Based Academies for Grades 10-12

The center of students’ high school experience in Holyoke will be four thematic academies for students in grades 10-12, built upon the core tenets stated above, and related to student interest, as well as regional employment and educational opportunities in Western Massachusetts.  High quality pathways that excite student learning offer students more opportunities to succeed in school and in their careers.


Exhibit 2: Grade 10-12 Academies


theme based academies

The Community and Global Studies Academy will provide varied pathways emphasizing the public and private sector connections that drive the local and global communities.  Pathways built around the study of law, policy, public service, and ethnic studies allow students to examine our society and societies around the world.  All pathways include opportunities to extend the learning in connected programs at area colleges and through partnerships with area businesses and organizations.


Celebrating bilingualism, dual language opportunities will be offered in the future as the current elementary school dual language program progresses into the high school grades.  (In the dual language program, students who are native Spanish speakers and students who are native English speakers have the opportunity to not only learn two languages and many cultures, but also to learn content in English and Spanish.)


The Technology, Engineering and Design Academy will provide opportunities for students to dive into fields of engineering, computer science, and industrial design with several specialty programs within those fields.  Partnerships with area colleges and many Pioneer Valley companies will provide extensive opportunities for applying learning in the field and advanced college study.


The Performing and Media Arts Academy will allow students to pursue passions in music and theater, as well as journalism, marketing, media, and graphic and visual design.  The rich performing and visual arts community of Western Massachusetts will provide numerous opportunities for students to apply their learning in real world settings, and many area colleges support abundant programs in these diverse areas of study providing dual enrollment options.


The Medical and Life Sciences Academy will offer students the opportunity to explore and learn the growing fields of biological sciences; healthcare; and urban agriculture, nutrition, and sustainable practices.  Academic options and work-based learning opportunities abound in these fields with strong connections to programs at area and national colleges.  The healthcare sector in particular is a broad, large, growing sector in Western Massachusetts and the country.


Our original draft strategic plan called for an academy focused on business, finance, and entrepreneurship.  After feedback and analysis, we determined that business, finance, and entrepreneurship is better integrated into curriculum across all four academies.  Management and entrepreneurship are present in sectors throughout our economy and apply in almost all academic fields.  Therefore, rather than separate out business, finance, and entrepreneurship, we decided that all academies would include those aspects of business practices to help prepare students to create, manage, finance, and lead organizations of all types.


Within each academy, students will access their core English, math, science, and history courses and all requirements for graduation including the Mass Core standards that many colleges expect.  Courses will cover the same rigorous standards in each academy, but the focus of courses may vary based on the academy theme.  Each academy will have 2-4 concentrations.  Possible concentrations are listed in Exhibit 2 on a previous page and will continue to be refined by our staff teams, in consultation with higher education and business partners, during the academy design process.  Students in each academy will have access to advanced placement, dual enrollment, and unique courses aligned with concentration strands, as well as work-based learning experiences such as internships and work study.  Each academy will offer Chapter 74-approved career technical education program(s) as well.  Students will explore academies in 9th grade through participation in the Freshman Academy and toward the end of their 9th grade year, apply to the academy of their choice for advanced studies in grades 10-12.


Students with disabilities will receive support within all academies.  Supporting individual needs within a student’s IEP (individual education plan) is a natural extension of the personalized pathways that drives the high school redesign.  Students with disabilities will be able to choose an academy, concentration, work-based experiences, and capstone projects to personalize their path through high school just as students without identified disabilities.  Special education services will support students throughout those steps.

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