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January 26, 2023 | Shannon Smith

New Knox County Schools program will better prepare students for the workforce

From entrepreneurship to STEM, from automotive services to law, Knox County high school students will now start specializing in their field of choice as freshmen.

About 200 people, three television cameras, and two drones gathered at Central High School Thursday to see what a reimagined high school experience will entail.

Knox County Schools is working to transform the high school experience through new learning communities called The 865 Academies.

Starting freshman year, students at participating high schools will choose a career-themed academy that they’ll follow through to graduation. Themes range from business and entrepreneurship to health sciences, from engineering to automotive fields. This year’s freshmen are the first to try this program, where the true goal is to make sure students are ready for life after graduation.

“Our job is to have students prepared for when they graduate, so they can have high-paying, high-demand jobs, they can join our nation’s military, or they can move on to post-secondary learning,” said Dr. Jon Rysewyk, Superintendent of Knox County Schools. “If we’re not forward thinking about the future of our students, no one else is.”

Community-focused learning makes a big school small, as described by Central High School Principal Dr. Andrew Brown. He said Central has split its freshman into two groups, and then sectioned out smaller learning communities from there. He said since starting this program in August, the school has noticed both higher student attendance and big gains in academic success.

Brown said last year, the failure rate of freshman taking algebra was over 50 percent. Since The 865 Academies program began in the fall, that failure rate is less than 10 percent.

Central is one of eight Knox County high schools currently putting their freshmen through the freshman seminar portion of this new program. After lots of feedback from students and community partners, they’ve now assigned area-specific learning communities at each of these schools.

Students will pick a path freshman year, with the goal of being better prepared to continue past graduation with hands-on experience in their chosen fields. Area businesses will partner with the schools to provide mentorship and real-world looks at how what they’re learning in the classroom translates to business.

The following schools have launched the following academies:

Austin-East Magnet High School

  • The Academy of Entrepreneurship and Professional Services
  • The Academy of Health Sciences and STEM

Bearden High School

  • The Academy of Business, Leadership, and Communication
  • The Academy of Health, Human Science, and Services
  • The Academy of STEM and the Arts

Central High School

  • The Academy of Automotive Services and Technology
  • The Academy of Business and Design
  • The Academy of Health and Life Sciences

Farragut High School

  • The Academy of Business
  • The Academy of Engineering and Technology
  • The Academy of Health, Human, and Animal Sciences

Fulton High School

  • The Academy of Communications
  • The Academy of Health and Human Services
  • The Academy of Public Service

Hardin Valley Academy

  • The Academy of Business and Law
  • The Academy of Health Science
  • The Academy of Liberal Arts, Communications, and Design
  • The Academy of STEM

Karns High School

  • The Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship
  • The Academy of Creative and Technical Innovation
  • The Academy of Health Sciences and Human Services

L&N STEM Academy

  • School of Advanced Inquiry
  • School of Computational Science and Cybersecurity
  • School of Design Thinking
  • School of Physics, Mechanics, and Engineering

If your business fits any of these categories and you’re interested in partnering with any of The 865 Academies, you can register and find more information here.

The 865 Academies are a partnership between Knox County Schools, Knox Education Foundation, and the Knoxville Chamber.

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