Not as easy as it looks. So JCPS and Ford are instituting new programs at five Louisville high schools.

Manufacturing used to be bolting stuff together.

Hard, monotonous work, but simple.

But after Ford Motor Co. expanded and modernized their operations here, especially the robotics, they had a difficult time finding people with the skills to do 21st Century manufacturing. Same with General Electric, say our sources.

Today, Ford took a step toward fixing the larger education system on the way to creating kids who are ready for college, or ready to enter the workforce.

Starting with the 2013/2014 school year, Ford and Jefferson County Public Schools will begin a pilot program at five Louisville High Schools, the Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) initiative.

In its NGL literature, Ford executives advocate “mobilizing” teachers and administrators to teach kids real skills in high-motivation, high-participation environments. And not bore them to death.

For the record, Ford has spent a lot of brainpower and assets developing this program. You can see a detailed explanation of the program here.

Or, you can see the quick and painless summation below.

The five high schools chosen for the NGL pilot program are Fairdale, Jeffersontown, Pleasure Ridge Park, Southern and Waggener.

Two of the schools – Waggener and Fairdale – were on the 2010 JCPS list of under-performing schools, with below-average test scores and graduation rates.

There are three strands of the Ford approach according to company literature.

• Strand One: Transforming Teaching and Learning

Engage all students in meaningful learning that is connected to their own lives and usable in the real world. Prepare students with both essential academic knowledge that meets rigorous standards and 21st century skills (critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, creativity, and global awareness) required for success in college and career. Enable students to see how what they are learning in school can prepare them for postsecondary education, productive careers, and active citizenship. Engage business, higher education, and the broader community in expanding students’ educational experiences and social networks beyond the classroom doors. Offer educators professional learning opportunities that enable them to apply these transformative teaching and learning strategies throughout their practice.

• Strand Two: Redesigning High Schools

Creating and maintaining the career- and interest-based programs and the collaborative culture, structures, and practices necessary to transform teaching and learning and facilitate community engagement. Identify and implement standards of practice for career academies and other innovative and effective designs that support meaningful connections between (1) classroom learning, (2) the needs of the workforce, and (3) economic development resources and needs in the community. Engage entire school teams in developing and sustaining the collaborative culture and practices required to transform teaching and learning. Design and implement systems and structures that facilitate changes in teaching and learning as well as school culture—for example, administrative leadership that understands and promotes quality instruction, and scheduling that provides teachers with joint planning time and enables academic, and career and technical education teachers to integrate their instruction.

• Strand Three: Sustaining Change through Business and Civic Leadership

Align educational programs with regional workforce and economic development strategies. Engage employers in creating, supporting, and participating in effective educational programs that will develop a qualified, diverse workforce for the future. Offer career- and interest-themed schools that provide the structure and culture required to transform teaching and learning. Leverage employer support to ensure that educational programs are sustainable and will survive changes in school leadership.

Here are the bullet points of the Ford NGL program:

  • Externships—Teachers from different content areas will work with local businesses to develop interdisciplinary projects that will engage students and enhance learning.
  • Cohort Scheduling— Students in the program will take classes together in specific content areas, allowing students to work across disciplines on the projects and teachers to closely follow student progress in multiple content areas.
  • Individual Learning Plan Enhancement—Improving technology infrastructure at schools, creating improved access to Individual Learning Plans
  • Data Enhancement—Creating real-time tracking of student outcomes, allowing for immediate interventions and directing of resources

Instituting the programs is a collaboration between JCPS, Ford Motor Company Fund and the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation, according to a JCPS news release.

In 2009, Nashville became a Ford NGL city. There, the city’s Ford dealerships chipped in $10,000 to launch the program.

The release does state that JCPEF is leading the development of a five-year master plan as it seeks to become 1 of 17 school districts in the country to receive the Ford NGL designation, and that the programs who have this have a history of success. And the data is pretty persuasive.

The Metropolitan Nashville Public School District has seen its high school graduation rate increase from 69 percent to 83 percent in just four years working with the Ford NGL model.

About 75 percent of JCPS students graduate. However, some schools have graduation rates as low as 50 percent.

Louisville is one of Ford’s largest manufacturing hubs, with the Kentucky Truck Plant on Chamberlain Lane and the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road. Ford has invested about $1 billion here since 2010 to upgrade both facilities.