West Fargo's exploration into high school academy models was sparked through our work with the ND Department of Public Instruction and KnowledgeWorks. WFPS, along with four other ND districts, began meeting with ND DPI and KnowledgeWorks in 2018 to begin the transition toward a personalized learning model that would best prepare our learners for their futures. Through this process and with the support of our Strategic Planning Task Force, West Fargo identified its core values, beliefs, Profile of a Graduate dispositions, and strategies for personalized learning. Our team also identified challenges to implementing personalized learning at various levels. For our high school learners, the need identified was for a more flexible delivery structure for instruction.Teams of West Fargo educators and administrators visited districts in Minnesota, Ohio, and Nebraska that had successfully implemented the academy model. Through these visits, the teams realized that our district's strategic plan and goals were well-aligned to the pillars of the academy model, making it a desirable solution to further explore. In 2020, after more than 6,000 connections with stakeholders (face-to-face and small group meetings, virtual convenings, focus groups, surveys, and personal conversations with community members, parents, staff,and students), West Fargo made the commitment to advance the academy model.West Fargo Public Schools believes that the academy model will play a critical role in helping to:
- Reduce the large-school feel by creating smaller learning environments for learners
- Align supports to build relationships through the academy cohort based on learner interest
- Increase focus on learner interests to motivate them to attend school and learn for a purpose
- Create intentional strategies and pathways for Choice Ready and Scholarship Ready preparation
- Increase interdisciplinary collaboration between core academics and electives, increasing relevance
- Provide more options and intentional access for all learners to participate in choice activities
- Ensure career, college, and capstone experiences for all learners, not just those with connections and resources
- Increase learner engagement through thematic projects, college visits, and work experiences
- Intentional alignment of programs of studies with advanced coursework, dual credit, and industry credentials
- Further define and expand learner leadership opportunities to ensure all learners learn, practice, and develop Profile of a Graduate dispositions and Career Ready Practices professional skills
How Will We Get There?
WFPS will utilize our strategic plan, personalized learning strategies, and academy action plans to navigate the transition. Our three comprehensive high schools will make the transition at different rates due to staffing, resources, professional learning, and other variables.Our academy plan was designed around the National Career Academy Coalition's National Standards of Practice, which provides the benchmark for the development, implementation, and sustainability of a high-quality academy. Administrators and educators also visited Alexandria, MN, Shakopee, MN, and Farmington, OH; attended the National Career Academy Coalition Conference in Philadelphia; and participated in virtual input sessions with Grand Island, NE to learn not only about their successes but their failures and how they adjusted their model for better learner outcomes.
How Were the Academies & Pathways Chosen?
While WFPS could have chosen to offer any of the hundreds of academies and pathways options out there, we knew we couldn't offer everything. Therefore, our academies and pathways were chosen through a review of the high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand jobs in our metro area. Use of this data set helps us to prepare students for their future while ensuring the necessary access to community partners, work experiences, and future employment.