LANCASTER — Eastside High School’s Biomedical Science Academy and Lancaster High School’s Multimedia and Engineering Academy are two of the first 12 pathways statewide to receive a pilot gold certification from the Linked Learning Alliance.
Linked Learning combines rigorous academics, career and technical education, work-based learning and student supports in career-themed pathways.
Both programs were previously certified silver. The gold certification means the programs are achieving impressive outcomes with students to prepare them for college, career and life.
“Just like (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) the certification process for these programs through Linked Learning is a self-assessment on quality as well as using data elements and student achievement,” said Betsy McKinstry, director of College and Career Readiness for the District.
Each school submitted a detailed application explaining what they do in their respective programs.
A team of educators from Linked Learning visited Eastside and Lancaster high schools to interview students, teachers and administrators in the academies. The teams assessed whether the programs met criteria such as early college credit opportunities, culminating experience, social-emotional learning, pathway completion and work-based learning.
The vising teams then submitted reports for each school that included observations and commendations as well as recommendations.
The gold certification is a testament to the academies’ fidelity, structure and implementation of the Linked Learning approach.
“The entire target is student outcomes so that’s the foundation we use,” said Duane Robertson, Career Technical Education coordinator.
Eastside High achieved its silver certification from Linked Learning last year. The Biomedical Science Academy is in its fourth year.
In teacher Gil Gomez’s sophomore human body systems, class students studied the nervous system during a recent visit. Working with a tabletop model of the body they used yellow and white strands of clay to create muscles.
Students in the academy are in a cohort where they attend the same core classes such as English and math along with their academy classes. The academy theme is part all of their classes.
“I took it mostly for the college credits,” student Christo Zamora said when asked why he joined the academy.
Christo added chemistry class is also less distracting because students in the academy, who take the same classes, are more mature and focused.
Daniel Zamora, Christo’s partner (no relation), said he joined the academy because the classes count as honor classes. “They told me it would be good for college,” Daniel said.
He added the classes would help him determine whether he wants to pursue a career in the medical field.
“We do a lot of projects and stuff,” Daniel said.
Student Evelyn Gonzalez joined the Biomedical Science academy because she is interested in a career in the medical field and wanted to see what it was like.
“It’s really fun,” she said.
Eastside High recently got computers equipped with virtual reality and augmented reality software that for use used for anatomical lessons.
“We dissected sheep hearts in my freshmen class. Before we dissected hearts the kids virtually dissected them through this program so that they could kind of see what they were going to look like,” teacher Kerin Coffey said. “I felt like it made the actual heart dissection more meaningful because they really knew what to expect.”
Coffey said they were happy about achieving gold certification.
“But we used the process to drive our practice and make sure we were doing the right things for kids,” Coffey said.
Eastside Principal Charles Dunn said they offer students opportunities they could not find anywhere else.
“We totally reimagined what the classroom space looks like. We looked at what education looks like 10 years from now, not five years from now. The teachers aren’t the center of the classroom anymore the students are,” Dunn said.
Dunn added they invest a lot into the Biomedical Science Academy and the students see that.
“The biomed kinds of pilots what we do and now other classes model that. … Every classroom on campus now has a Promethean board and a TV,” Dunn said.
Linked Learning certified Lancaster High’s Multimedia and Engineering Academy as silver two years ago. It was the first pathway in the state to achieve silver certification. Now it is one of 12 pathways in the state to achieve gold certification under Linked Learning’s pilot program.
“I think it just validates the work that our staff is doing and our students are doing,” Lancaster High Principal Kristen Tepper said.
Students who are in the academy are more likely to pass an Advanced Placement exam over the general student population.
“That was encouraging to us to know that the supports we have in place are working,” academy coordinator Erica Rough said.
Freshman Andrew Martinez joined the academy because he wanted to do something fun.
“I wanted to get into art, mainly to do jerseys and stuff because I want to help my team,” said Andrew, a wrestler and football player.
Andrew worked on cutting out a newly printed logo teacher Ryan McDaniel’s class designed.
“I love art and it’s fun doing things on the computer that are new to me,” student Camille Daigan said.
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