10 local high school programs ‘distinguish’ themselves from the rest

Career pathways in Dinuba, Orosi, Porterville, Strathmore and Tulare earn highest level of certification from National Academy Foundation

NEW YORK – Keeping career and technical education courses going on virtual platforms was a challenge for local academies during the pandemic, but 10 Tulare County high school programs were still able to distinguish themselves from the rest.

Last month, the National Academy Foundation (NAF) announced 178 high school programs which had obtained the Katherine Blasik Distinguished Academy certification. New to this year’s list were the Academy of Education at Granite Hills High School in Porterville and the Pre-Medical Academy at Tulare Western High School in Tulare.

Joy Soares, director of college and career for the Tulare County Office of Education, noted both teachers, pre-med lead Jennifer O’Donohoe and ACE lead Rich Lambie, have been with their teams since the inception of the academies and recognized Tammy Aldaco, TJUHSD assistant superintendent of special services and programs, and Cindy Brown, PUSD director of student pathways, for their leadership of these academies.

“It takes an exceptionally strong team of passionate teachers, counselors, and site administration, along with district and board support, post-secondary guidance, and work-based learning support from industry partners, to make the kind of impact that we see in these certified academies,” Soares said. “Both academies truly exemplify exceptional academy structure with quality advisory boards, curriculum and instruction, and work-based learning.”

Porterville Unified now has seven distinguished academies including the Academy of Law, Justice & Ethics at Granite Hills, Academy of Engineering and Academy of Performing Arts at Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore, Academy of Emerging Agricultural Technology at Strathmore High School in Strathmore, as well as the Academy of Finance and the Academy of Medical Careers at Porterville High School in Porterville. In addition to the aforementioned Porterville Unified programs, three other academies are returning to the list this year including the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology and the Academy of Health Sciences in Porterville, as well as the Academy of Health Sciences at Dinuba High School in Dinuba.

This distinction was particularly commendable as it was earned during the 2020-21 school year.

“During a continued time of uncertainty and needing to pivot to do our work differently, we applaud our Katherine Blasik Distinguished and NAF Model academies for all they have done to keep the NAF educational design at the forefront,” NAF chief executive officer JD Hoye said. “Congratulations on this important honor and thank you for your commitment to student success.”

The NAF’s annual assessment measures an academy’s strengths and challenges in implementing NAF’s results-driven educational design, that prepares students for success in college and careers. Site visits, hosted virtually this year, were conducted by a team of distinguished leaders, outside experts, and NAF staff to verify academy scores.

A subset of these high performing academies reaches additional thresholds to earn Katherine Blasik Distinguished level—NAF’s highest level of achievement. One hundred thirty-five of those academies have reached this level more than once and 43 were new to the roster.

NAF’s annual assessment helps academies assess their progress and increase their alignment to NAF’s criteria, reflecting national standards developed by researchers and members from similar career and pathway organizations.

NAF is a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure that high school students are college, career, and future ready. NAF works with high need communities to transform the high school experience through an educational design that includes industry-specific curricula, work-based learning experiences, and relationships with business professionals, culminating in a paid internship. NAF academies fit within and enhance school systems, allowing NAF to become an integral part of a plan for higher achievement at a low cost.

NAF academies focus on one of five career themes: finance, hospitality & tourism, information technology, engineering, and health sciences. During the 2020-21 school year, over 117,000 students attended 619 NAF academies across 34 states, plus DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. In 2020, NAF academies reported 99% of seniors graduated with 87% of graduates planning to go to college. For more information, visit naf.org.

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