Best Practices
February 8, 2009

Greater Santa Ana Business Alliance Launches the High School Inc. Academies

Main Image

At Santa Ana Valley High School, the largest and oldest high school in Orange County, California, business and education leaders have a forged a unique partnership to better prepare students for the road ahead after graduation. The Greater Santa Ana Business Alliance, in partnership with the Santa Ana Unified School District, led this effort in response to research findings over a 10-year period, revealing a major technical skills gap in the local economy. The result, High School Inc. Academies (HSI), is a market-driven institution that opened in the fall of 2007.

HSI, one of the first jointly administered public/private schools in the state, will eventually enroll as many as 2,700 Santa Ana students who will receive their education through a real-world, competency-based curriculum. HSI has its own board of directors—seven members total, with four seats belonging to the business community—that reports directly to the District Board of Education. A council of business leaders directs curriculum planning and was instrumental in developing the six learning academies that serve as a basis for organizing instruction in the school and preparing students for careers in Orange County’s top growth industries: automotive/transportation, engineering/ construction, global business, health care, manufacturing, and new media.

The academies also provide concurrent fulfillment of state graduation requirements through integrated academic and technical classes, and the opportunity for students to receive class credits at local colleges and trade schools. The curriculum includes field trips to industry facilities, equipment demonstrations by managers and foremen, internship opportunities, job shadowing, and part-time jobs, especially during the senior year. Overall, 75% of the knowledge, skills, and abilities taught throughout the four years are transferable between the six academies, while about 25% is specific to a single academy. Because of the structure, HSI board and industry leaders feel they have sufficient means of affecting the curriculum from year to year in response to the changing demands of the economy.

 “What we’re looking at doing is achieving some important but incremental reform that is comfortable for the current structure,” says Michael Metzler, President & CEO, Greater Santa Ana, California, Business Alliance.

Read more about Santa Ana and career and technical education in ICW’s new report, The Skills Imperative.