Accelerating the Future: How Katherine Blasik Distinguished and NAF Model Academies Are Paving the Way

Courtney Savoia
September 30, 2021

For NAF as an organization, announcing our annual Katherine Blasik Distinguished and NAF Model Academies each spring is more than a proud celebration. It is a valuable opportunity for our entire network to learn about the journey behind achieving this honor and the support that is needed.

Achieving Distinguished or Model level is all about providing a high-quality learning experience for students. Each year, NAF academies complete the Academy Assessment, which measures an academy’s strengths and challenges in implementing NAF’s educational design, with an emphasis on continuous improvement in deepening academic and developmental outcomes.

The highest scores on the assessment are NAF Model academies. A subset of those academies—which achieve additional thresholds—are recognized as Katherine Blasik Distinguished Academies.

In 2020-2021, NAF announced that more than 200 academies reached Model quality level and 178 reached Katherine Blasik Distinguished quality level. Of these, 135 of these academies have reached this quality level more than once and 43 are new to the roster.

Following our announcement, NAF created a brochure that highlights some of the promising practices of these newly Distinguished, with the hopes that other academies and career and technical education programs can learn from these high performing academies. Some examples include:

Ballard High School, Academy of Finance – Seattle, WA

Best Practice: During our Principles of Finance course, students complete an ongoing project called, “My Life @ 25.” They are required to project themselves to age 25 and come up with a narrative, presentation, and a working budget (31 financial data points). It is based on their real-life and financial situations, as well as their available choices. They also do career research to determine a likely salary.

Calvin Coolidge High School, Academy of Health Sciences – Washington, DC

Best Practice: Robust opportunities for hands-on learning are provided for students to actively participate in dissections, biomedical laboratory experiments, and forensic investigations to learn more about scientific principles. They have also engaged in 3D design platforms and take part in virtual labs.

Dillard High School, Academy of Hospitality & Tourism – Fort Lauderdale, FL

Best Practice: Our academy collaborates with vocational schools and businesses in the restaurant and hotel industries, offering their employees’ time to facilitate trainings and workshops for students. During these trainings, students learn about delivering great customer service, food preparation and cooking, and participate in community service projects – such as catering for a local children’s cancer hospital.

Miami Southridge Senior High School, Academy of Information Technology – Miami FL

Best Practice: We have rich resources for our academy students to connect what they are learning in the classroom with the needs and demands of the workplace. Our curriculum is teaching students tools and technologies, from HTML5 to drawing animations, using the Wacom tablet. Our partnerships with Microsoft TEALS, FIU, and Full Sail University, are exposing students to professionals in the field and providing opportunities to pursue their interest in technology at the university level.

Skyline High School, Academy of Engineering – Dallas, TX

Best Practice: Skyline High School, Academy of Engineering had an opportunity to work with the engineering department of a local university, which was conducting a study related to infrastructure deficiencies within the Dallas area. Students interacted with engineering professors and graduates and were asked to collect data, analyze, and map areas that showed a lack of sufficient infrastructure. This included neighborhood parks, sidewalks, safe street crossings, street drainage systems, tree canopies, grocery stores, and more. As a result, students received insight into parts of their communities that affect the day-to-day quality of life for them and their families.

NAF Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Dughi, said, “During an ongoing time of uncertainty that requires flexibility and creativity for us all to do our work differently, NAF academies embraced challenges with a spirit of innovation. Now that we have begun a new school year, it’s an ideal time to look back at goals and plan for the upcoming months. NAF’s academies are currently working to input their data for the next Academy Assessment. Continuous improvement is critical to NAF’s ongoing success.”

Click here to read Accelerate: 2021 Katherine Blasik Distinguished and NAF Model Academies.

View Bio

Courtney Savoia is the Assistant Director of Communications at NAF. She’s passionate about sharing the stories of our network and elevating their voices. Courtney writes about a variety of NAF and partner experiences, as well as lessons learned, and also conducts student, partner, and educator interviews about their journeys, for our audiences to take inspiration from.

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