|ACE charter school: building connections
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
The new ACE school Architecture, Construction and Engineering slated to open in September 2008 is the next and most ambitious step in the Oregon Building Congress decade-long endeavor to educate teachers and students in the construction arts. A charter school, ACE will welcome students entering their junior or senior years of high school from Parkrose, Centennial, Reynolds and Gresham-Barlow schools to expand their opportunities in the building fields. At four open houses held in early February, Dick OConnor, executive director of the Oregon Building Congress, and Mike Taylor, the former superintendent at Parkrose and ACE co-director, welcomed industry professionals, educators, parents and students to the school located in the Willamette Carpenters Training Center, 4222 N.E. 158th Ave. Over coffee and cookies, OConnor and Taylor expounded on ACEs mission to provide real work experience and contextual instruction to students interested in an industry currently facing a severe labor shortage.
Both speakers praised the schools abundant resources. With associates at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers electricians training center; Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Sheet Metal Institute and the Northwest College of Construction all in close proximity, ACE students will have access to 45 training stations, 50-plus classrooms, and over a hundred specialized instructors on an as-needed basis.
Alternating with home schools on an A day, B day schedule, ACE will execute the traditional concepts taught in English, science and math by applying them in architecture, construction and engineering, enabling students to transcript their education at ACE according to the requirements of their home schools. Students who enroll in ACE seeking an alternative to the classic education model will not be disappointed. ACE administrators gave equal consideration to recommendations from both educators and industry professionals on the know-how needed to improve the workforce.
An ACE student will start junior year learning the foundational precepts of all three facets of building. This overview will expose students to unconsidered disciplines, which they may then choose to pursue in-depth the following year. This also affords students a more well-rounded perspective of all the necessary steps involved in the building industry where crews of many trades must coordinate their roles in the same space.
Students will learn in teams of four to five, resembling a work crew. By rotating responsibilities within, students learn cooperatively and comprehend the importance of each role. Four to five of these teams will form a learning group, or class. Two teachers at a time, a Career Technical Education teacher and either a math, science or English teacher, will fuse the subject with its application to improve the groups understanding.
This integrated learning structure will demand highly trained teachers with a panoramic perspective on subjects not limited to their discipline. However, they can tap specialists when needed.
Taylor declared, There isnt anyone with trade expertise that we dont have available to teach. This will allow our CTE teachers to teach a wider range.
ACE hopes to afford their graduates the most possible opportunities to explore. Combining rigorous academic content with hands-on practice, ACE will present subjects in context with the students interests, aiming at improving scores both at ACE and their home schools.
Students will complete their ACE education with the Capstone (senior) Project. Proof that the students have proficient skills to qualify for direct entrance into the trade or higher education program of their choice, the Capstone Project will demonstrate a comprehension of all facets of the chosen field. ACE literature describes the Capstone as evidence of how students work through ideas and issues of design and production to solve problems and produce a desired product. The Capstone will also earn students one extra credit over the eight customarily accrued over two years at the home schools.
In the future, ACE hopes to sponsor a summer tutorial program held between students junior and senior years. This program will provide a longer duration of real work experience, strengthening the associations necessary to network within the industry. In the meantime, administrators believe that partnering with apprentice programs, visiting nearby training centers, and tapping mentor expertise will create a smooth transition from the classroom to the workplace for their students.
While all schools combine concepts with application, ACEs focus on the building industry brings demonstrative learning to the forefront. With companies hungry for trained talent, students discouraged by the abstract ideals of higher education can gain confidence in a more hands-on career. College-track students seeking a creative outlet may discover the degrees satisfying application in the trades.
OConnor encapsulated the schools ambitions by saying, We try to set every kid on fire in terms of passion for a future for themselves.
Though confident in their model, Taylor and OConnor conceded that changes most likely will be made, and they stressed the schools adaptability. OConnor explained, We want the school to be a true learning organization. We are going to test our theories, see if they work. If they dont work, we are going to change (them). If they do work, we want to improve them and keep getting better.
Optimistic that the school will grow to answer the needs of the day, Taylor stressed the benefits of the ACE model. We are not all things for all people. We do what we do, and we will do it extremely well.
For more information on ACE, including enrollment applications, visit www.acecharterschool.org.
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