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CAPS expands innovative education program to 6 KC area school districts

CAPS, an area innovation education network, is continuing to grow its impact in the Kansas City metro as it expands to create two new programs this fall. The Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) is adding two local programs this fall, bringing its total reach to 14 school districts in Missouri and Kansas. 

CAPS is in the midst of launching a program for the Center School District as well as establishing a new program, Southland CAPS. Southland CAPS will consist of students from Benton, Raytown, Fort Osage, Hickman Mills and Raymore-Peculiar school districts.

The two new programs will add hundreds of prospective students to the CAPS framework of innovative, project-based learning.

CAPS began in the Blue Valley School District in 2009 as a district-wide high school program that offers college credit to juniors and seniors, accelerating students’ knowledge on various careers by using industry-standard tools and mentorship from employers.

Corey Mohn, executive director of Blue Valley CAPS, said this success is not only a win for CAPS, but a win for entrepreneurial thinking in general.

“While we obviously think the CAPS model is awesome and we’d love to see it spread everywhere, the bigger win is that districts in Kansas City are experimenting,” Mohn said. “They are trying new things around profession-based learning, project-based learning, experimentation and entrepreneurial mindset. It’s exciting and awesome to see it happen.”

Mohn said he believes that innovation in education has been taking off in Kansas City within the last two years. He said that the region will eventually begin to see an impact on its talent pipeline.

“I think (CAPS) makes a significant difference in Kansas City because it allows employers to start the process of identifying and filtering for the talent they need much earlier,” Mohn said. “It gives businesses the opportunity to influence our curriculum and have an impact on what skills and attributes need to be developed in our young people.”

In 2015, CAPS created a national consortium, banding schools together around the U.S., boosting its innovative education model. With programs in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Utah, Texas and Arizona, the CAPS network currently spreads across ten states and 60 school districts.

The Kansas City metro is already home to Northland CAPS — serving students in Excelsior Springs, Kearney, Liberty, North Kansas City, Park Hill, Platte County and Smithville school districts. The addition of Center School District and Southland CAPS will nearly double the network’s impact in Kansas and Missouri by serving about 4,000 students.

“Kansas City is one of the better places for experimentation in education,” Mohn said. “There are a lot of interesting models that are popping up here, which is encouraging.”

Kelly Wachel, communications manager for Center School District, said she believes joining CAPS will create opportunities for students.

“After we visited the program, we knew that this is what was really good for kids,” she said. “We knew that it was good for possibilities, projects, internships and career-based passion-driven projects for students to work on. We wanted our students to have that experience as well.”

Wachel added that because Center is a small district with only one high school, the program will be altered to fit its students’ specific needs.

“For many of our students, small communities are what they know and what they’re comfortable with,” Wachel said. “An exciting piece for me personally and I think for our whole district is that we get to open up broader and bigger worlds for our students by providing opportunities like CAPS.”

Southland CAPS will operate as an extension of the Raytown School District’s Herndon Career Center. Dr. Allan Markley, Raytown Schools’ superintendent, said that he is excited that Southland CAPS is finally happening.

“For some time, we felt that students south of the river were missing a valuable resource for career education planning and were at a disadvantage in comparison with their peers who had the opportunity to participate in CAPS programs,” Markley said in a release. “We decided to lead the charge to give our students a similar experience and knew that our colleagues in surrounding districts would support our effort to bring CAPS to the Southland.”

Mohn said that in addition to growth in the area, CAPS also is expanding in the St. Louis area. CAPS is taking its framework to Wentzville and St. Charles schools.