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Academies Overview

The Vision for Academies and Pathways

2019 Vision for Learning

  • Relationships

  • Learners as Leaders and Owners (of their own learning experience)

  • Community is an authentic context for learning 

  • Experiential learning (or learning by doing)

  • Learner as apprentice; Teacher as mentor and facilitator

The Research Conducted in 2019

Educational Design Team (EDT) reviewed the extensive body of research presented to ACPS as part of its nation-wide review of high school expansion models pursued and/or implemented by school divisions or districts with similar or relevant demographics, anticipated enrollment growth issues, and a highly engaged community. 

  • Stantec and Fielding Nair International (FNI) conducted a national scan of high school expansion models during the summer and fall of 2018. 
  • The EDT reviewed the research and the 18 exemplary sites identified by FNI, including the study’s emphasis upon such 21st century skills as complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity necessary for future success
  • Key finding relevant to the current work: 

    Personalize the high school experience through smaller learning communities and student choice regarding pathways and approaches to the learning process.

Academies and Pathways Expectations

Virginia Department of Education states: “Virginia acknowledges the importance of career and technical education to students and the commonwealth through diploma seals awarded by the Board of Education, by recognizing industry credentialing in its diploma requirements, and through the use of Career Pathways as an integral part of the newly required Academic and Career Plan.”

Profile of a Virginia Graduate

The Profile of a Virginia Graduate describes the knowledge, skills, experiences and attributes that students must attain to be successful in college and/or the work force and to be “life ready.”

The 5 Cs of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate: 

  • Critical Thinking

  • Citizenship

  • Creative Thinking

  • Communication

  • Collaboration




Academies are small learning communities organized around instructional themes. Each academy provides students an opportunity to explore a comprehensive curriculum within a specific field. They do this alongside peers who share similar academic and career interests.


Pathways are a selection of courses and experiences tied together to create a clear path for graduation and certification. Each pathway is customized to meet the needs and interest areas of ACHS learners, meaning they are flexible and adaptable.

Small Learning Communities

Small Learning Communities define the student’s four-year experience.

Core content and elective teachers connect with a subgroup of students to ensure interdisciplinary alignment to the Pathways and offer advisement and mentorship.

They provide a supportive environment in the school that helps learners connect, collaborate, and grow.

Specialized Learning Paths

Specialized Learning Paths are the sequence of courses that lead to proven skills, post-secondary readiness, or career credentials.

Core Content Themes

Core Content Themes bring meaning and unity to ACHS’ small learning communities. Each Academy will develop Core Content Themes that infuse Academy concepts that students can study, research, and explore in subject-specific courses.

Academies and Pathways: ACHS