Career Academy Initiatives  

Arkansas Career AcademiesA Career Academy is a small learning community within a high school – a group of students who typically stay with the same group of teachers for two to four years. Rigorous academics are organized around one or more of the sixteen national career clusters to provide focused, contextual learning. Career Academies are staffed by a team of teachers from various disciplines and are created and operated with the support of community and business leaders. Key factors in Academy implementation include employer partnerships, teacher planning time, curriculum integration, administrative leadership, career exploration and planning, work-based learning, curriculum integration, and articulation agreements. A high school may implement one or more Academies.

The Arkansas Model

The Arkansas model for Career Academies was designed by the state Career Academy Advisory Team, composed of representatives of the Arkansas Departments of Education, Workforce Education, and Higher Education; the state legislature; local school districts; and employer associations. The advisory team provides guidance for the development and implementation of Career Academies in Arkansas.

The advisory team has created a statewide Career Academy approach that:

  • Ensures a more personalized and supportive learning environment for K-16 learners and educators (smaller learning communities),
  • Promotes high academic standards and achievement (direct alignment to Frameworks/Standards,)
  • Increases the exposure and engagement of students and educators in career awareness and work-based learning opportunities (enhancing the relevance and rigor of curriculum that includes SCANS, workforce preparation, and industry core skill standards that are linked to academic standards and delivered through identified career pathways between K-12, post-secondary, and career placement), and
  • Establishes ongoing partnerships between business, K-16 education, and community members to support and sustain the above (fosters and sustains the community partnerships and principles developed through Career Opportunities).

Key Elements of the Arkansas Career Academy Model:

  • Implementation of a minimum of one full national career cluster per Academy
  • Cluster selection based on economic development needs of local area
  • Peer leadership teams and Academy advisory boards
  • Curriculum integration
  • Smaller learning communities
  • Opportunities and equal access for all students
  • High academic standards for all students
  • Structured work-based learning opportunities
  • Comprehensive career planning (elementary, middle/junior high, and high school)
  • Transition courses (Keystone/Capstone)
  • Industry-recognized skill standards
  • Professional development for educators
  • Common planning time for Academy teachers
  • Team teaching
  • Articulation of technical courses


  • Improved attendance
  • Increased participation
  • Increased graduation rate
  • Decreased discipline/behavior problems
  • Improved school climate
  • Improved standardized test scores

Keystone/Capstone Transition Classes

“The future is not something you enter, the future is something you create. If you want to change your schools, change the 9th graders. It is treacherous to navigate the 4 years of high school. The Keystone Class has truly changed the cultural climate of my school. In my 28 years of teaching, this is the first real change that’s made a difference.” -Billie Donegan, SGPHS Keystone Teacher and Academy Facilitator

Keystone is designed to transition incoming students into the high school and the Academies. Keystone centers on the following:

  • Creates a sense of belonging
  • Increases the involvement of students in the school
  • Provides better monitoring and support
  • Promotes relevancy of subject matter taught
  • Gives a clear and realistic focus on what to expect
  • Establishes short and long-term goals for students
  • Provides an impetus for raising standards

The Capstone Class helps students plan for transition out of high school and may involve the completion of a senior project.

NOTE: Keystone and Capstone may be offered as non-credit or for-credit courses. Schools wishing to offer a Keystone and/or Capstone course for credit, or for information on endorsement of Keystone/Capstone instructors, please contact the Office of Career Exploration and Preparation at 501-682-1616.

16 U.S. Department Of Education’s Career Clusters

  • Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics
  • Information Technology
  • Retail/Wholesale Sales and Service
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Arts, A/V Technology and Communications
  • Business and Administration
  • Education and Training
  • Health Science
  • Finance
  • Human Services
  • Law and Public Safety
  • Scientific Research/Engineering
  • Government and Public Administration