NCAC Past, Present and Future
In 1996, a small group of practitioners from Philadelphia, California, Florida and Washington, DC came together to determine how they could support each other in their career academy work. These charter members of the National Career Academy Coalition had a vision of what a grassroots organization might look like. The coalition of stakeholders knew that having a conference made sense, but they truly had to take a leap of faith, as there was no funding or history, only a dream and healthy dose of enthusiasm. With maxed out credit cards and a whole bunch of hope, the first NCAC conference in Cherry Hill, PA brought together 400 educators, businesspersons, students and parents who were all hungry to learn from each other. They knew that what they were doing collaboratively in their communities was working. With that conference and the networking that followed, NCAC as an organization was off and running.
From 1996 through 2009, NCAC continued to expand and grow. A vision began to emerge of being the recognized leader for collaborative support and sustainability of career academies. Along the way, NCAC grew into a membership organization with a Board of Directors. It benefitted from the nurturing and guidance from Nova Southeastern University where it was housed for a period of time. As NCAC moved to hire a part-time director, it was apparent that back office operations needed to be housed somewhere and NCAC found that home with Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC) in Philadelphia. In 2013, NCAC moved to hire a full-time executive director with office space in one of the Nashville, TN schools and back office operations monitored by Jacobs, Cohen and Associates of Nashville.
In 2004, NCAC was very involved in the collaborative development of the National Standards of Practice (NSOP) for career academies. They, along with the College and Career Academy Support Network (CCASN) and the National Academy Foundation (NAF), hosted a press conference in Washington, DC to launch the NSOP. With the federal smaller learning communities initiative, NCAC was actively involved with many school districts on the implementation of their smaller learning community model—career academies. Additionally, states and cities began to explore turning their strong CTE programs into career academies and NCAC played a role in that development, as well.
In 2009, career academies celebrated their 40th year in existence (having started in 1969 in one Philadelphia high school). NCAC held it’s by now yearly conference in Philadelphia and pulled together 25 national partners—all committed to career academies. The day following the conference a federal meeting was held in Washington, DC to call attention to career academies. The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) played a major role in convening this meeting and in developing a brief entitled High School Career Academies: A 40-Year Proven Model for Improving College and Career Readiness.
In 2012, NCAC convened the NSOP developers to reaffirm and revise the ten National Standards. The updated document was released in 2013. And in September 2013, NCAC, again with the collaboration of AYPF and CCASN, hosted a meeting in Washington, DC on the national status of career academies. It is believed that this meeting helped to contribute to the decision for the Department of Labor and Department of Education to partner on a 2014 federal grant opportunity that favored career academies. Also, at this time, President Obama traveled to Nashville, TN to speak at McGavock High School, a successful and NCAC model wall-to-wall career academy school. The President called the academy model “simple, but powerful.”
Over the years, NCAC has taken its vision seriously. With a Board comprised of organizations representing career academies, business and education, NCAC serves as an umbrella group, convening and advocating for career academies. Members have access to:
• A yearly, high quality national conference that draws from up 900 practitioners and stakeholders;
• Technical assistance on starting and maintaining high quality career academies;
• A variety of professional development opportunities based on the needs of the school district;
• Access to resources from other organizations that support and sustain career academies;
• An academy review or accreditation process that identifies and rewards best practices found in model career academies; and
• National information that can keep them abreast of information valuable to career academy
• Local implementation and sustainability.
The future looks bright for the NCAC. It has recently gone through a major restructuring improving its systems, infrastructure, membership model, review process and web presence. The NCAC has taken a much larger advocacy role in the national conversation and has championed career academies with the White House Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus and more. It is working with its membership to expand quality career academy practice at a time that could not be more appropriate. Many other great things are on the horizon and we are confident that with your support we’ll be able to affect much more change in the national conversation as well as in the trenches with the network.