The Center for Advanced Professional Studies model was a solution to a single school district’s senioritis problem.
Blue Valley Schools created CAPS and launched a small cohort of early-adopter students into this new program in 2009. Taking the chance that students would be responsible, professional and innovative when given freedom, CAPS connected students directly to high-skill, high-demand industry clusters like bioscience and engineering.
Student work was no longer rote memorization or simulated exercises. The curriculum was delivered through real tasks and challenges provided by business clients, Thus, the students became consultants, learning the content through applied learning and hands-on work.
As CAPS took off in Blue Valley, other educators wanted to experiment with the model. Five initial partner programs launched, including another local program, Northland CAPS. Soon dozens of districts were seeking guidance on CAPS – a model quickly turning into a movement we branded as the CAPS Network.
Today there are 39 affiliate programs in the CAPS Network, representing 83 school districts across 12 states. Kansas City recently played host to this group of pioneering educators when CAPS hosted its annual Summer Huddle event last week. Around 150 people representing 30 unique affiliate programs collided at Blue Valley CAPS to network, learn and celebrate.
The Stanford d.school facilitated a half-day session on Design Abilities, a new effort to further flesh out design thinking. Tom Vander Ark – former head of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and current president of Getting Smart – provided a keynote address on the future of work and the ability for schools to leverage networks to create new opportunities for students. At one point he asserted that“The work you are doing is the most important work in the world.” No pressure!
All of Kansas City should be immensely proud of what is now growing out of our hometown. The connection of students to career opportunities is a win-win that helps solve our current and future workforce challenges. Of course, there is still much more work to be done. After all, not every student in our region has access to a CAPS program or similar opportunity.
I am confident, however, that the ingredients for success are present to provide more and more students with these authentic, life-changing experiences.
Our future depends on it.
Corey is the Executive Director of the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), a program that empowers high school students to fast-forward into their future through hands-on work, real-world business projects, and the development of professional skills. In July 2015, Corey helped launch the CAPS Network, a consortium of school programs across the United States committed to this model of profession-based education.