When it comes to competing for jobs or gaining admittance to two- or four-year colleges, graduation from high school is a bareminimum requirement. These days, students can boost their chances of success in landing jobs and launching careers by earning technical certifications that are highly valued by employers and colleges.
Lee County Public Schools, the ninthlargest district in Florida and one of the 50 largest school districts in the United States, has become a model for other schools in equipping students with industry certifications, including Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) and Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) programs that build professional-level skills in Adobe® Creative Suite® Master Collection software.
“Adobe is an integral part of our technical certification programs,” says Jana Hambruch, project director, Office of Zone and Attractor Programs and Technical, Career, and Adult Education for Lee County Public Schools. “Adobe understands education and shares our vision for what we’re trying to accomplish with our technical certification programs.”
The growing need for career and technical education
Lee County Public Schools is heavily focused on preparing students to excel in an information-based society. In 2005, the district launched the Academy for Technology Excellence (ATE) at Dunbar High School. Funded through a federal magnet education grant, Dunbar’s ATE serves an ethnically diverse student population. A large percentage of Dunbar students come from low-income backgrounds, and some have limited English language skills. Designed to accommodate 360 students in grades 9 through 12, the ATE offers hands-on courses taught by IT-certified instructors. A testament to the program’s success in engaging students is that well over 95% of ATE students—those who started as freshman and remained in the program for all four years—graduated.
Rigorous technology curriculum boosts overall student performance
The ATE offers a wide range of information technology classes to tap the enthusiasm that many high school students have for computers. As students finish courses and achieve certifications, their grades go up in other classes. Statistics also show that ATE students score higher on average on state standardized tests score than their non-Academy peers on the FCATs. Hambruch attributes this success to the test-taking strategies that ATE students learn and to the demanding coursework in the curriculum, which strengthens students’ ability to read, interpret, and process higher-level information. They also learn how to work in a collaborative environment and how to think like mature professionals.
“With technical certification programs, we are building more than just technology acumen,” says Hambruch. “We’ve shown that the rigorous technology education programs motivate students to excel in other core academic areas like reading, math, and science. It’s something the students desire; you can see their excitement the minute they start participating in the industry certification programs.”
Students who may have not even envisioned graduating from high school are graduating with diplomas and real-world job skills, with certifications to back up the skills and a sense of confidence in their abilities—and in the future. Some Dunbar students have graduated with 19 different certifications over the four-year program. Others have landed IT jobs with titles such as application specialist, network administrator, systems engineer, and computer support technician.
Dunbar students who choose to go on to college after graduating are also benefiting from the program. A dual-enrollment option enables students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously. One student was able to get a two-year jumpstart on pursuing a degree in IT security.
An easily replicated model
Lee County has developed a cost-effective, easily replicated model for training and testing both instructors and students that is spreading rapidly across the district. Already, all 13 high schools and two technical centers have a site license for Adobe Creative Suite software. Eight high schools have testing centers and new centers are opening rapidly.
Two levels of Adobe certification are available for Lee County’s educators and students. The ACA certification, developed and deployed by Adobe partner Certiport, is a credential that validates entry-level skills needed to plan, design, build, and maintain effective communications by using different forms of digital media.
“When I saw that Adobe offered the ACA Exam Classroom License through Certiport, I thought it was really visionary,” says Hambruch. “It means we have lower costs and simplified budgeting, which makes it easier to expand our implementation.”
Hambruch believes the addition of the ACA and ACE programs will be particularly compelling for instructors and students. Whether students are learning skills in the context of illustration, graphic design, Web design and development, or film design and production, Adobe software provides the same integrated workflow capabilities that today’s working professionals rely on. A common user interface and smooth integration across all Adobe Creative Suite tools enable students and educators to quickly learn the software, explore creative options, and work faster and more fluidly.
While in school, students can use the software to produce impressive portfolios that will get them noticed later, as well as learn skills that will help them succeed after entering the workforce.
“Students love using Adobe software,” says Denise Spence, Magnet Grant Technology lead teacher at Lee County Public Schools. “It’s a central part of our efforts to keep students engaged and prepare them for the future.”
To learn more about CTE, download the free whitepaper here: http://www.adobe.com/go/k12ctewhitepaper (opens in new tab)
To watch a video about Lee County/ Brevard County CTE program, visit http://www.adobe.com/go/k12cteflorida (opens in new tab)