Beginning in 2010, a team of school district staff and community members, organized by Alignment Rockford, convened to understand and address a gap which exists between the public school system’s outcomes and the local workforce needs. The gap is in the preparation of students to meet the workforce needs both nationally and locally.
The school district developed four common academies across their high schools tied to a theme of paired career clusters. One of the high schools maintains two long-standing magnet programs: Gifted Academy and the Creative and Performing Arts academy (CAPA). Academies are small learning communities in which students (roughly 300 students) and staff are organized and connected within each academy. When determining what academies should be placed at each school, the team was intentional about implementing the same four academies at every high school. Due to past issues with segregation and inequity among schools within RPS 205, it was imperative that the academies were equitable.
As a part of implementing academies, pathways, or three-year programs of study are incorporated into each academy from which the students can choose. The goal of each pathway is to provide students with a college experience through early college credit and/or a nationally recognized certification. Many new courses were developed in career and technical education pathways, including engineering, medical sciences, criminal justice, education, and entrepreneurship. These opportunities were not previously available and are all connected to high skill, high wage, and high demand career opportunities for students. In addition to new course opportunities, significant investment was made to enhance courses in studio arts, performing arts, and graphic design.
Rockford Public Schools, with input from all stakeholders, developed a series of learning experiences which will promote college and career readiness for all its students which were named the College and Career Readiness benchmarks.
In 2017, RPS 205, Alignment Rockford, and Rock Valley College became a part of the Great Lakes College & Career Pathways Partnership (GLCCPP). The Partnership included a cohort of communities from the Midwest that received funding and technical support to improve student achievement. Technical support was provided by ConnectEd, Education Systems Center at NIU, Jobs for the Future, with funding provided by the Joyce Foundation. The primary goal of the GLCCPP was to strengthen the capacity of communities to achieve self-sustaining systems of high-quality College and Career Pathways that are accessible to all students producing student outcomes that ensure lasting success in further education, career, and life.
Through the work of the GLCCPP, Rockford was able to focus on aligning its work to the Postsecondary Workforce Readiness Act. Alignment Rockford and RPS worked together to shift its College & Career Readiness benchmarks into a Work Based Learning Continuum, aligning to the PWR PaCE framework. RPS and RVC worked together to create and implement a system to offer dual credit coursework in its various Pathways. RPS also launched Math Literacy (Transitional Math) and Transitional English in partnership with RVC, allowing students to complete remedial coursework prior to college.
Rockford continues to focus on building out pathways as complete programs of study in order to offer College & Career Pathway Endorsements. The partnership with Rock Valley is critical to ensuring students have a successful offramp into postsecondary. Alignment Rockford has shifted its work to support access to early childhood but continues to remain apprised of college and career activities within the district.