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Technical certifications give high school students a leg up

Lee County Public Schools equips students with Adobe certifications that build professional-level skills for careers in digital media and beyond

When it comes to competing for jobs or gaining admittance to colleges, students can boost their chances of success by earning technical certifications.

Lee County Public Schools, one of the 50 largest U.S. school districts, has become a model for other schools in equipping students with certifications, including Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) and Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) programs that build professional-level skills in Adobe? Creative Suite? Master Collection software.

"Adobe is an integral part of our technical certification programs," said Jana Hambruch, project director, Office of Zone and Attractor Programs and Technical, Career, and Adult Education for the school system. "Adobe understands education and shares our vision for what we're trying to accomplish with our technical certification programs. And, because Adobe Creative Suite applications are considered the standard, they are what students will need to know if they decide to pursue careers in digital media."


Lee prepares students to excel in an information-based society. In 2005, the district launched the Academy for Technology Excellence (ATE) at Dunbar High School, an ethnically diverse student population, with a large percentage coming from low-income backgrounds, and some having limited English language skills. Designed to accommodate 360 9-12 students, the ATE offers courses taught by IT-certified instructors. Well over 95% of those who started as freshmen and remained in the program for all four years graduated.

The ATE offers IT classes to tap students' enthusiasm for computers. By providing an opportunity to earn industry certifications, the ATE helps graduates secure jobs while providing the business community with qualified technical professionals.

As students finish courses and achieve certifications, their grades go up in other classes. The program also improves students' performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT); in some cases, hundreds of points higher—than their non-Academy peers.

Hambruch attributes this success to the test-taking strategies and demanding coursework in the curriculum, which strengthens students' ability to read, and interpret and process higher-level information. They also learn to work in a collaborative environment and think like mature professionals.

"Adobe understands education and shares our vision for what we're trying to accomplish with our technical certification programs."

The district standardized on Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection software to support ACA and ACE training and testing in the 2009/2010 school year. Since then, eight high schools have added testing centers and new centers are opening rapidly.

Two levels of Adobe certification are available. The ACA certification, developed and deployed by Adobe partner Certiport, validates entry-level skills needed to plan, design, build and maintain effective communications through digital media. Through Certiport, Lee can conduct unlimited ACA testing in one classroom with up to 30 computers under a once-a-year licensing fee.

"With Adobe software, we are starting to open Academies of Digital Design to enable students to achieve ACA and ACE certifications," said Denise Spence, Magnet Grant Technology lead teacher, Academy for Technology Excellence, Lee County Public Schools.

"Students love using Adobe software—it's a central part of our efforts to keep students engaged and to prepare them for the future."

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