Degree Name

Education Specialist (EdS)

Semester of Degree Completion



As a result of a study conducted to consider the problems of declining enrollment and buildings in need of repair, Decatur Public Schools identified technical training and strong academics as priorities for its high school students. Following several meetings with parents, staff, and community members, plans were initiated to restructure one of the three high schools into a four-year technical academy. The objective of this paper was to design a process for establishing a technical academy. New design models for high schools were researched and resulted in the identification of design elements, key questions, characteristics, and partners critical to designing the process for establishing a technical academy.

The process for designing the technical academy included the identification of several design elements such as (a) learning mission, (b) learning outcomes, (c) curriculum, instruction, and assessment, (d) school organization, (e) partnerships, (f) staffing and staff development, (g) facilities and technology, and (h) finance. Questions were developed for each design element to assist in the process of developing the academy. Characteristics applicable to each design element were included to facilitate the design process. The design elements build sequentially upon each other so the elements should be addressed in the order listed.

Implementation of the design process involves establishing a steering committee to guide the process. The steering committee will guide the partners for each design element through the design process and establish a timeline for completion of the work. Partners will use the key questions and characteristics as discussion points for designing the technical academy. The steering committee will use outside experts and focus groups to assist with the process to establish a technical academy. Any school system undergoing this process must take into consideration the design questions and characteristics, while tailoring the final design to its own situation.

The research leads to several recommendations. The recommendations include (a) disseminating the design process to the Decatur Public Schools' board of education; (b) pilot testing the design process with a small group, such as a school within a school, before implementing in a larger school environment; and (c) implementing measures to test whether the design process leads to improved outcomes for students. High school restructuring must be dedicated to continuous improvement, not change for the sake of change, but retaining what works and finding better approaches in areas needing improvement.