Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, but I wanted to take a minute to highlight an organization that I’m grateful to know and support: Alignment Rockford. Their work with Rockford Public Schools has set the standard for getting students interested in careers that are vital to the local community. Stand profiled their work in our recent “Stop Illinois Brain Drain” report.
What a group like Alignment Rockford brings to the table for local public schools is huge. The more I worked on the Brain Drain report, the more I learned that partnerships like this are exactly what Illinois needs to help kickstart the economy and stop our state’s brain drain.
Alignment Rockford envisions all students graduating from high school with marketable employment skills or enrolling in post-secondary education. Their partnership with RPS resulted in a complete reorganization of the district’s high schools into industry-specific College and Career Academies. It is a shining example of the business community and education sector exercising collaboration and urgency towards a shared goal.
In addition to students’ regular coursework, specialized electives are presented within the context of the academy’s focus. These electives lead to either dual-credit or industry certifications for graduating students. Students chart their unique pathway during eighth and ninth grades, exploring career pathways.
During their time in school, students experience Alignment Rockford’s Academy Expo, a unique, interactive event that allows them to explore over 100 regional career opportunities demonstrated by nearly 500 industry experts who offer hands-on demonstrations and career awareness. Before graduation, they also complete a capstone project, working to plan, create, and implement a real-world solution in connection to their academy, chosen pathway, and industry needs.
Students truly get hands-on, real world experience that prepares them for their future goals and the local economic landscape. Win-win-win!
For all this outstanding work, Alignment Rockford was named a Ford Next Generation Learning Model Community, the third community to be named. Today, there are about 53 communities following this model. We could use more partnerships like this one, and that’s exactly why I wanted to put a spotlight on this outstanding work for Illinois students.
P.P.S: As a reminder, here are some of the other organizations we are grateful for: