May 5, 2022

KCS Joins Ford NGL Network For High School Transformation


Amanda O'dell

On May 4, Knox County Schools celebrated the district’s designation as a Ford Next Generation Learning community, an important step in the ongoing effort to transform the high school experience for students.
Over the last year, the district has partnered with educators, students, community partners and business leaders on the effort, which was convened and funded by Knox Education Foundation. The process has been facilitated by Ford NGL, an internationally recognized organization that seeks to convene strategic partnerships between school districts and local businesses.

The strategy involves creating career-themed academies at district high schools, which will be known as The 865 Academies. This initiative will allow students to:
• Participate in authentic, work-based learning;
• Receive opportunities for job shadows and other career exploration activities;
• Work closely with professionals in their field of interest; and
• Create stronger connections between classroom knowledge and workplace success.

In addition, The 865 Academies will promote a strong alignment between the teaching and learning that happens in district high schools and the workforce needs of the East Tennessee region.

“As we focus on student-centered learning, one of our district’s top priorities is to ensure that KCS graduates are prepared for success in a career or in college,” said incoming superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk. “By launching The 865 Academies in our high schools, we will equip students with the relevant support and structures they need, while also leveraging the expertise and resources of area employers.”

The first cohort of schools to participate in The 865 Academies will begin this fall with a Freshman Academy for incoming 9th-graders. These students will explore future academy pathways in preparation for choosing an academy prior to their 10th-grade year. The first cohort of schools will be:
• Austin-East Magnet High;
• Bearden High;
• Central High;
• Farragut High;
• Fulton High;
• Hardin Valley Academy; and
• Karns High.

“There is more than one path to success after high school, and our graduates must be equipped to pursue their goals no matter which path they choose,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “I am pleased that Knox County will embrace this innovative approach to high school transformation, and I believe it will pay dividends for our entire community.”

“This is another huge step in our community to prepare our children for life after high school,” said City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. “The 865 Academies will provide students real hands-on experience and the support they need as they navigate fields of interest. What a win-win for our students and our ever-expanding workforce in Knoxville.”

“We believe in collaboration to overcome barriers, advance opportunities, and empower all students,” said Chris Letsos, CEO of Knox Education Foundation. “The reimagination of high schools through The 865 Academies will provide every student in Knox County the opportunity to be successful in college, career, and life.”

“Ford NGL research has proven that community ownership and accountability is just as important to educating our children as good study habits and hard work,” said Cheryl Carrier, Executive Director, Ford Next Generation Learning. “The Ford NGL partnership gives students and teachers a competitive edge that improves their chances for future success and will benefit the workforce and economic development needs of a region for years to come.” Ford Next Generation Learning is supported by Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford.

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