Cardinal Academies

Career Academy LogoAre we preparing students with the career and skill sets needed for their future? In Crete, we are bringing together teachers, employers and community leaders, transforming our high school to make learning more meaningful and give students the skills they need to be ready for what comes next.

We call this transformation the Cardinal Academies Crete. The Cardinal Academies will provide all students with more of the advanced skills they need to be successful, productive citizens in college, career and life.


A career academy is a small, safe and supportive learning environment that is contained within a larger high school setting. An academy has a career and college theme preparing students for both post-secondary schooling and work. Nationally, it has three major components:

  • A small learning community (SLC) is a group of students within the larger school that takes classes together and is taught by a team of teachers from different disciplines.
  • A career theme within a college prep curriculum enables students to see relationships and connections between academic subjects and their application to a broad field of work.
  • Community engagement includes partnerships with employers, the community and colleges, bringing resources from outside the high school to improve student motivation and achievement.


As a part of the Cardinal Freshman Exploration Academy, all ninth-grade students will take Freshman Seminar. In this class, they will spend time discovering the different pathways we will offer. At the conclusion of their freshman year, they will list their top three choices and be assigned to a pathway to explore over the next three years. Pathways are like college majors; students choose which to pursue based on their interests.

During their sophomore, junior and senior years, students will explore learning opportunities and be immersed in college and career preparatory programs through a focused lens of instruction. At the conclusion of their final year, students will have developed a senior capstone project to culminate their pathway learning experiences.


Cardinal Business and Human Services Academy pathways:

  • Business
    • Marketing
    • Design
    • Finance
    • Entrepreneurship
  • Health Sciences
  • Education
  • Agriculture
  • Business / Logistics

Cardinal Technical Sciences Academy pathways:

  • Construction
  • Welding
  • Automotive
  • Engineering / Robotics


The district has developed a Continuum of Experiences for all students, regardless of academy or pathway. These are scheduled by grade:

9th grade: College & Career Discovery

  • College and career research
  • Attend a career fair
  • Develop a ten year plan
  • Experience ACT & SAT prep
  • Complete one virtual and/or blended course
  • Attend a college visit
  • Mock interview

10th grade: College & Career Exploration 

  • College and career research
  • Earn an industry-valued certification
  • Experience ACT prep & Pre-ACT
  • Hear a career speaker in the Pathway
  • Hear from college speakers in the Pathway
  • Attend a college fair
  • Attend a college visit

11th grade: College & Career Immersion

  • College and career research
  • Earn an industry-valued certification
  • Complete one virtual and/or blended course
  • Experience ACT prep & ACT
  • Attend a career field trip in the Pathway
  • Attend a college visit in the Pathway
  • Attend a job shadow

12th grade: College & Career Capstone

  • College and career research
  • Earn an industry-valued certification
  • Complete one virtual and/or blended course
  • Attend a job shadow
  • Complete financial aid (scholarships & FAFSA)
  • Complete a Capstone experience


Transition to the academies will result in: 

  • Increased graduation rates
  • Increased daily attendance rates
  • Increased student achievement
  • Students invested in the community
  • Fewer discipline incidents
  • Higher ACT scores
  • Improved teacher efficacy

This is aligned with the new Profile of a CPS Graduate.

College and career ready

All students will complete the college and career continuum AND at least one of the following:

  • Be a pathway completer (3 courses)
  • Score at least a 31 on the ASVAB
  • Earn an industry-valued certification
  • Earn at least 3 college credits

Communicator & critical thinker

All students will:

  • Successfully research a pathway
  • Defend a capstone project in their pathway

Globally connected and aware

All students will participate in at least one co-curricular or extra-curricular organization 
AND at least one of the following:

  • Complete one virtual and/or blended course
  • Earn a seal of bi-literacy

Respectful and productive citizen

All students will:

  • Have an attendance of 95% or higher
  • Complete an electronic portfolio with a 10-year plan
  • Complete 20 service learning hours


The transition to the academy model is three years in the making and has involved a number of district staff, community leaders and students conducting hours of research and analysis to find the right solution for Crete.

  • March 2021 - Visited academy schools
  • November 2021 - NCAC Conference
  • December 2021 - School board presentation
  • January 2022 - Implementation team formed
  • August 2022 - Revision grant awarded
  • September 2022 - Partenered with Steele Dynamics
  • February 2023 - Student ambassadors selected
  • March 2023 - Kick off 8th graders & parents
  • August 2023 - Freshman Exploration Academy begins


  • Creation of Advisory Boards for each upper academy
  • Including members of the Crete community and stakeholders
  • Professional development for staff on teaching in an academy
  • Curriculum mapping
  • Academy-specific Professional Learning Communities


  • Internships for students in their chosen pathway
  • Externships for staff, which will provide industry-related teaching experiences aligned to their pathway
  • Student Ambassadors for upper academies
  • Alignment of Academies to the National Standards of Practice