National University Academy (CTE & ROCP)

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National University Academy is comprised of two public, tuition-free K-12 charter schools; National University Academy, San Diego (NUA), and National University Academy, Armona (NUAA). National University Academy programs are dedicated to creating learning opportunities which are accessible, challenging, and relevant to a diverse population of K-12 students. NUA and NUAA both offer rigorous academic programs leading to a high school diploma or GED.

National University Academy, San Diego serves 6th -12th grade students in Riverside and San Diego counties that desire or need an alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar program.

National University Academy, Armona serves 7th-12th grade students throughout California who are participating in one of NUA's partner programs, such as the California Conservation Corps or Workforce In Action.

Thank you to Bernie Hanlon, who serves as the Director of National University Academy, for sharing this information about the National University Academy ROP program.

CCSA: How many students do you serve?

Bernie Hanlon: We have two campuses, serving a total of 650 students, in grades 7-12. 350 of our students are located in San Diego County and the remaining 300 are in Riverside County.

CCSA: What does your student population look like (number of FRL, ethnic diversity, etc.)

Bernie Hanlon: Our population is typical of an Independent Study charter school that works mainly with low-income minority students. Most of our students are on their second or third attempt to get their act together. Many have been expelled from a traditional public school or have dropped out. For whatever reason they couldn't make it academically or behaviorally in a traditional brick and mortar public school setting. We're pretty much their last chance.

CCSA: Why did your school decide to offer ROP?

Bernie Hanlon: Two main reasons:

  1. It is getting harder than ever before to get a job, even with a high school diploma. We felt that if a student could earn a CTE certificate, they would have that much better of an opportunity to find decent employment.
  2. As a charter, you want to find a niche, something that the school down the street isn't offering. In this case it's ROP for students who need a second or third chance to make them workforce ready. Part of National University Academy's mission is to get students ready to enter the workforce or attend college and the ROP classes certainly help accomplish that.

We think offering ROP is an important part of meeting all of our student goals. Our reasoning is, a graduate with a high school diploma and a certificate in, let's say, digital photography, will have a leg up if they want to work in the media field over someone who just has a high school diploma.

Bernie Hanlon: We want to prepare our students as much as possible to help them find success in the workforce upon graduation from high school.

CCSA: How do your students currently access ROP?

Bernie Hanlon: Right now, we can only offer ROP to our students in Riverside County. In Riverside, the ROP Program is operated through the Riverside County Office of Education, not an individual school district. Working with them was a test to see how our students could get involved with ROP and obtain a CTE certificate. We have a wonderful relationship with the Riverside ROP District, who has accepted our students into their daytime program and treat them like any other public school students.

On the other hand, we have not had any success in San Diego. In San Diego, the ROP program is operated by individual school districts, even though the funding comes through the SDCOE. When we approached local districts regarding our participation, we were told that they had lost funding over the years and have had to cut back classes so there is no room in their daytime program for more students. If they did have any openings, our students would have to come on campus and that won't work because many have been expelled and can't legally come on campus.

CCSA: Why did you decide to start your own ROP Program?

Bernie Hanlon: Due to the fact that our San Diego students can't currently access ROP, we decided to start our own program and are in the process of slowly doing so. We are using our budget to develop our own program and curriculum. The first course that we have had approved is "digital photography."

We have 25 teachers at our two campuses, two of whom have a CTE credential. Our Curriculum Manager is currently going through the necessary process to obtain her CTE credential. Our goal will be to get as many of our instructors credentialed as we can through the CTE.

How will we achieve this goal? We remind our instructors on a regular basis of their professional development options, letting them know which credentials they can work towards. We try to push teachers to continue their education, especially in areas that we know are going to be really important to making our students more employable in the future. What is their incentive for doing so? Our instructors are paid based on the number of credentials that they have. In order for them to move across the salary schedule, they need to increase their number of credentials.

We hope to be running our own program with general fund money in the near future. Our school has a very close working relationship with National University so a lot of things that other charter schools have to dig deep for, we get at little to no cost. For example, we received 100 complete computer set-ups that cost us nothing this past year. Not having to worry about funding enables us to start programs such as this much more easily than the average charter school. We're also educating ourselves as to other sources of funding such as the Perkins Grant.

CCSA: What advice do you have for charter schools who are thinking of offering a CTE Program?

Bernie Hanlon: We're still in the "learning as we go along" phase right now. A year from now, we'll have things in place that will be very helpful to a lot of students. I'm happy to share more then.

CCSA: What help do you need from the Association and the Legislature around CTE issues?

Bernie Hanlon: It would be nice for us to have direct funding. In the meantime, though, we're going full speed ahead with our program, supporting it with general fund money and other grants that we can access.

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