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A Closer Look at Winning Plans for Federal High School Redesign Grants

The $107 million flowing into high schools across the country through the federal government's new Youth CareerConnect grants will be used to beef up dual enrollment, expand internships, and prepare students for high-demand, high-tech fields, among other plans. More details have been released about the winners, including plans in New York to open more P-TECH-style early-college high schools and efforts in Galveston, Texas, to require all students to graduate with college credentials and relevant work experience.

On April 7, 24 grant winners were announced from a field of 275 applicants in the inaugural round of the YCC program, administered by the Department of Labor. It was developed to encourage academic and career-based curriculum and work-based learning and emphasizes high-demand fields, such as science, technology, math and engineering. It also aims to promote collaboration between high schools and postsecondary education so students can earn college credits early.

(See Politics K-12 coverage of the announcement and complete list of winners.)

The Labor Department recently has made summaries of the the 24 winning applications available on its website. Here you can see how how the districts will use the grants, which range in size from $2.3 million to $7 million to improve pathways to college and careers for high school graduates. Here's a sampling:

Toledo Public Schools, Ohio ($3.8 million): This effort focuses on developing four learning communities in five high schools and one technology center. The communities would focus on advanced energy with a solar specialty, advanced manufacturing, advanced electronic, and pre-apprenticeship. Students would be trained in entry-level positions at local companies, earn a variety of industry credentials, complete high school with at least 18 college credits, participate in a company-sponsored team project in 11th grade, and participate in one-month internship as a senior.

Galveston Independent School District, Texas ($4 million): In a collaborative effort with local industry and Galveston College, this grant aims to raise the bar for students in grades 10-12 at five local high schools and graduate students ready to compete in high-demand jobs. The effort will require all students to graduate with at least 12 college credits; earn a recognized credential in a growth field; complete work, service, and leadership experiences with the help of a mentor; and work with a counselor to develop a career plan.

Kentucky Educational Development Corporation ($5.5 million): Plans to work with 10 high schools to expand dual-credit and accelerated-learning opportunities with Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, develop transitional and bridging programs to college, and expand career counseling. The grant also includes career academies with small learning communities, a college-prep curriculum, and connections with businesses through an advisory board to provide work-based learning opportunities. High-growth career paths identified as a focus include health care, computer information systems, financial management, and business and office accounting.

New York City Department of Education ($7 million): Will use the grant to support the creation of two new early-college high schools similar to the Pathways in Technology model, which President Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address in 2013. The district plans to expand apprenticeships for dental hygienists and diesel mechanics and modify 10 career and technical education programs to offer college credit and counseling.

Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, Indianapolis ( $7 million): Has partnered with two local employers to expand its career academies in advanced manufacturing and logistics and offer work-based learning opportunities. Through collaboration with the National Society of Black Engineers, Women in Technology, and the Indiana Girls Collaborative, the district hopes to expand its career academies and promote more diverse participation in STEM career paths.

JoAnn Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said she finds some of the themes that run through the selected programs encouraging. For instance, NASSP supports the consistent mention of integrating career and academic work, which suggests not just layering on a CTE program, but using what has been successful in CTE programs to drive the redesign of the high school experience, she said in an email response.

Much of NASSP's school improvement work has emphasized personalization, as do many of the new grants.

"It takes many forms in the programs that were selected, in empowering students to direct their own learning, in providing wraparound services so students enter school prepared to succeed, in mentoring and other one-on-one learning experiences that ensure each student is known and encouraged in the school. These factors are essential to the success of any school," said Bartoletti.

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