Local Spotlight: Mountain Home High School Career Academies

Mountain Home High School Career Academies was created in 2003 when the Mountain Home Public Schools in Mountain Home, Arkansas, decided to convert its only high school into a career academy. With approval of the Arkansas State Board of Education and the Arkansas Department of Education, the district moved forward with its plan to create the wall-to-wall career academy.

Since then, the high school has functioned as one school, comprised of three academies: ACME (Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing, and Engineering), CAB (Communications, Arts & Business), and HHS (Health and Human Services). These academies serve 875 students in grades ten through 12. Local ninth graders participate in transitions activities, including student surveys, visits from high school officials, and Keystone, a career and technical education course focused on facilitating a smooth transition to the high school’s career academy model. Approximately half of all students at Mountain Home are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

The faculty and staff at Mountain Home believe that students learn differently. As a result, students are not grouped solely based on career interests, but by what learning style works best for them. In addition, students have the option of switching academies at the end of each school year, though fewer than 2% choose to do so each year. Students describe the career academies as providing "three separate doors instead of cramming everybody through one big door." The school also has an on-campus mentoring program which connects students with professionals from the community. Mentors lead student advisories once a month, planning activities, coordinating field trips, and coaching the school’s champion robotics team.

Since implementing the three career academies in 2003, student performance at Mountain Home has improved significantly. Student proficiency on state exams has increased 20 percentage points in literacy, and 58 percentage points in Algebra I. In 2011, the school had an 86% graduation rate, and 94% attendance rate.

Mountain Home High School Career Academies has been recognized by the Ford Fund as a leader in, and model for, career academies serving students in rural areas. The National Career Academy Coalition has ranked all three Mountain Home academies as either a national model or nationally certified program. The school was most recently spotlighted by NBC’s Education Nation as a case study school that is implementing exciting and innovative solutions and achieving demonstrable success.

Read more about Mountain Home High School Career Academies by viewing Education Nation’s full case study, here.


Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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