New focus on career building, SLCs, at FHS, area

Hoping to sharpen the career-path focus for Knox County high school students, while also positioning teachers to share regular communication about each of their students, is coming this fall to Farragut High School.

In short, each student’s different classes throughout the day will be grouped into “Small Learning Communities,” resulting “basically being in the same area of the building” so teachers can better communicate about each student’s problems and academic progress, FHS principal Dr. John Bartlett said.

To make this happen, “This summer, 40 of our teachers will be moving classrooms,” he said about making each student’s classes physically close “so they can better talk about kids on a formal and informal basis.

“It’s really going to help kids be known, and have a group of teachers who know each student and all get to know (the student’s) story. It helps individualize education.”

Next Generation Learning career path

To accommodate career path changes, the Ford Next Generation Learning model, known as 865 Academies, will be adopted by FHS among seven public high schools — also including Hardin Valley Academy and Bearden — beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

Although saying “students already have been required to take a tract of, like, three classes that are in some specific career path,” Susan Horn, 5th District representative on Knox County Board of Education, which recently voted to implement this model, added, “What will be changing with this in the big picture will be, really, two things: One, there will be additional opportunities for students to explore careers, and there will be additional counseling on that.”

Horn labeled as “most exciting” the opportunity for KCS schools “to better partner with business owners and industry in the area, so students have more opportunities for work-based learning and more opportunities for just more real-world experiences.

“And for business partners to be able to give input on maybe some of the curriculum in areas that are specific to them,” she added.

“The other thing that is part of the vision behind this, is taking a large high school like Farragut and breaking it into smaller learning communities so that students are better known by their teachers,” Horn said.

For example, “All the health science teachers would be located in the same area, the business teachers would be located in the same area,” she added.

As a result, “a lot of the teachers at the high school are moving classrooms at the end of the school year … moving into those academy structures,” Horn said. “That’s a challenge for them; it’s hard when that has to happen.

“I think our teachers do a great job of getting to know their students, but this will be able to help them do that further,” she added.

For all the “across the board” changes, however, “the goal is not to make each high school look the same,” Horn said. “… Right now each high school has its own individual personality, and I think that will continue. I think every school is going to have its own, individual content and focus areas that will be specific to each high school.”

Despite the changes, “the offerings that Farragut has will continue,” including “all the AP classes that they currently offer, which has been a concern for some teachers and parents that that would be changing,” the 5th District Board rep said.

As laid out in a KCS press release, the 865 Academics initiative “will allow students to participate in authentic, work-based learning; receive opportunities for job shadows and other career exploration activities; work closely with professionals in their field of interest; and create stronger connections between classroom knowledge and workplace success.

“In addition, The 865 Academies will promote a strong alignment between the teaching and learning that happens in district high schools and the workforce needs of the East Tennessee region,” the release further stated.

“As we focus on student-centered learning, one of our district’s top priorities is to ensure that KCS graduates are prepared for success in a career or in college,” incoming superintendent Jon Rysewyk said. “By launching The 865 Academies in our high schools, we will equip students with the relevant support and structures they need while also leveraging the expertise and resources of area employers.”