Program

Nov 01, 2010

OVERVIEW

Career Academies
are small learning communities organized around a career theme. The program is
designed to provide information, technical and academic skills, enhance
engagement and performance in school, and, overall, enable participants to make
a successful transition to postsecondary education and, later, a career. The
program operates on a school level, with a specific structure and curriculum,
and on a community level, through business partnerships and job opportunities
with local employers. Target participants in the sample are high school
students in high-risk schools and school districts (e.g., high dropout and
unemployment rates). Experimental evaluations show that participants in Career
Academies experienced several positive impacts, including a greater likelihood
of graduating high school on time, more motivation to attend school, and having
high-quality work-based learning activities while in high school. For youth at
the greatest risk of dropping out of school, participation in the program also
led to lower dropout rates, higher attendance, and appears to have forestalled
their disengagement from school. No impact was found on high school graduation
or post-secondary enrollment.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:
High school students in large schools

Over its 30 years
of existence, Career Academies has served an estimated 2,500 schools nationwide.
Its school-within-a-school structure follows from the goal of creating a more
intimate learning environment in a large-population high school setting. Career
Academies aim to prepare youth for entry into the workforce or college, when
employers and schools often say youth are entering poorly prepared.

Component Provided by Duration Description
School-within-a-school structure Teachers Throughout high
school
A team of
teachers is linked with a group of students
Integrated
academic and vocational curriculum
High schools Throughout high
school
Topics and
projects cross individual course lines; the curriculum is integrated
thematically by the Academy’s occupational focus
Business
partnerships
Employers in
the community
Throughout high
school
Employers
assist in designing the Academy program, provide workplace experiences, and
can offer summer or even permanent employment to students

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Study 1

Kemple, J. (1997). Career Academies: Communities of support for students and
teachers: Further findings from a 10-site evaluation.
New York: Manpower
Demonstration Research Corporation.

Evaluated population: 1,406 students and 468 teachers in ten high
schools: Pittsburgh, PA; Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; Cocoa, FL; Miami Beach,
FL; Socorro, TX; Santa Ana, CA; Watsonville, CA; and two in San Jose, CA.

Approach:The objective of the study was to assess the extent to which
academies function as ‘communities of support’ for teachers and students.
Participants were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Teachers
and students completed questionnaires during their first or second year in the
study.

Results:
Academy students were more likely than their non-Academy counterparts to report
that teachers give them personalized attention and have high expectations of
them; to report that their classmates are highly engaged in school and work with
them on school projects and assignments; to report that they are intrinsically
motivated to attend school; and to perceive a strong connection between what
they learn in school and their longer-term education and career interests.

Study 2

Kemple, J., Poglinco, S., & Snipes, J. (1999). Career
Academies: Building career awareness and work-based learning activities through
employer partnerships. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation.

Evaluated population:The same ten high schools were evaluated as in
study 1, and this sample consisted of1,600 total Academy and non-Academy
students at the end of 12th grade.

Approach:The objective of the study was to examine employer partnerships
and how they evolved and to assess the extent to which CA increased student
participation in various career awareness and work-based learning activities.
Students were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups, and a survey
was administered to about 1,600 Academy and non-Academy students at the end of
12th grade.

Results:
Students in the Academy group were more likely to work, and more likely to work
in jobs that incorporated “high” levels of work-based learning content. Those
in the experimental group were more likely to be exposed to career-related
themes or activities in school, and participate in job-shadowing or field trips;
and more likely to have high-quality work-based learning experiences during high
school. Academy students participated more frequently and intensively than
non-Academy students in career awareness and work-based learning activities.
Students in Academies with highly structured employer partnerships or support
from nonteaching employer coordinators reported greater participation in CA and
work-based learning activities than those in Academies with less structure.

Study 3

Kemple, J. & Snipes, J. (2000). Career Academies: Impacts
on students’ engagement and performance in high school.
New York: Manpower
Demonstration Research Corporation.

Evaluated population: Students from the ten sites in Studies 1 and 2 were
evaluated: 959 in the program group and 805 in the control group.

Approach:The objectives of the study were (1) to determine to what
extent the Career Academy approach alters the high school environment in ways
that better support students, (2) to examine the extent to which the program
changes educational, employment, and youth development outcomes for students at
greater or lesser risk of school failure, and (3) to examine how the manner and
context in which Career Academy programs are implemented influence their effects
on student outcomes.

School records,
student surveys, and standardized math and reading tests were collected. School
records included daily attendance rates, credits earned, and course-taking
patterns. Student surveys asked about school experiences, employment and
work-related experiences, extracurricular activities, preparation for college
and postsecondary jobs, and plans for the future.

Career Academies
serve a diverse group of students, and this variety often distorts the overall
reported impact of the program. To determine outcomes among various groups of
students, the evaluation divided its sample into three groups, based on
background characteristics. This categorization took place before students were
randomly assigned to either the Academy or non-Academy groups; high-risk
students entered the study with background characteristics indicating that they
were disengaged from school to the point where dropping out was most likely.
More than half had failed courses during the ninth grade, about one-third were
chronically absent, most had low grade-point averages, and over 40 percent had
been held back in a previous grade. Approximately one-quarter of the students
were classified as the high-risk subgroup;one-quarter of students were
classified as the low-risk subgroup; and the remaining students were put
into the medium- risk subgroup. Characteristics used to define these
groups were the following: attendance rate in the year prior to random
assignment, number of credits earned in 9th grade, grade point
average in the year of random assignment, being overage for grade level, number
of schools attended (0 or 1 different schools versus 2 or more), and whether the
student has a sibling who dropped out of high school.

Results:
Career Academies had a considerable impact on the high-risk subgroup. For
example, 32 percent of the non-Academy students from this subgroup dropped out
of high school, while only 21 percent of Academy students did so. CA also
affected attendance levels among this subgroup. Attendance rates for non-Academy
students were 76 percent, compared with 82 percent for Academy students.
Twenty-six percent of high-risk-non-Academy students satisfied graduation
requirements, compared with 40 percent of Academy students. Finally, the
percentage of students applying for a two- or four-year college also reflected
the impact Career Academies had on high-risk students. Among Academy students,
51 percent had submitted applications, versus 35 percent of non-Academy
students.

Among students
least likely to drop out of high school, the low-risk subgroup, Career Academies
increased the likelihood of earning enough credits to graduate: 86 percent of
Academy students fulfilled the requirements, compared to 75 percent of
non-Academy students. Career Academies also increased the number of vocational
courses taken by these students, without reducing the likelihood of their
completing a basic core academic curriculum. However, 71 percent of low-risk
Academy students reported submitting college applications, compared with 79
percent of non-Academy students.

On the whole,
Academy students in the medium-risk subgroup did not report outcomes that were
significantly different from those of non-Academy students. Their results tended
to vary widely across sites.

Impacts on the full
sample (high-risk, low-risk and medium-risk subgroups combined) only showed
modest improvements: 65 percent of the Academy students completed credits to
graduate, while 59% of the non-Academy students did; and 67 percent of the
Academy students took three or more career or vocational courses, compared with
44 percent of the non-Academy students. Career Academies did not improve
students’ standardized math and reading achievement test scores. The diversity
among students, the variation among Career Academy sites (for example, in
interpersonal support from the teachers and peers in 9th or 10th
grade), and teaching styles, however, may have reduced the likelihood of having
significant differences.

Students had
varying degrees of exposure to CA programs. Students in the Academy group
attained virtually the same high rate of high school graduation, post-secondary
education enrollment, and employment as those in the non-Academy group,
indicating very little impact of the program overall. Approximately 88 percent
of the students selected for admission to a Career Academy actually enrolled in
the programs; 58 percent of those selected remained in an Academy throughout
high school.

Study 4

Kemple, J.J. (2001). Career Academies: Impacts on students’ initial
transitions to post-secondary education and employment.
New York: Manpower
Demonstration Research Corporation.

Evaluated
population:
Career Academy and non-Career Academy youth (N=1,482) that had
completed a post-high school survey were evaluated, see above studies for more
information. This sample includes 85 percent of participants in the original
Academy Group, and 83 percent of participants in the original non-Academy Group.

Approach:
The objective of the study was to determine the impacts of Career Academies on
students’ initial transitions to post-secondary education and employment. Data
were gathered through a survey administered to the sample approximately 14
months after graduation. The survey asked whether and when participants had
graduated from high school and whether and when they enrolled in post-secondary
education.

The survey also
asked about work experiences of the youth and the industry they were in.
Finally, the survey asked about participant’s plans for the future. Data were
also collected from high school transcripts.

Results:Career Academies had little impact on the educational attainment
and labor market participation of students in the year following high school
graduation. The only finding that reached statistical significance was that
Academy students were more likely than non-Academy students to earn a GED. In
the subgroup analysis, this finding held for the medium-risk group, but not for
the low- or high-risk groups. There were some significant findings among risk
subgroups attributable to the program, such as a higher likelihood of staying in
school through the end of 12th grade, improved attendance, and a
higher number of credits towards graduation. No significant differences
attributable to the program were found for the subgroups for any of the other
measures.

Study 5

Kemple, J.J. & Scott-Clayton, J. (2004, March). Career Academies: Impacts on
labor market outcomes and educational attainment.
New York: Manpower
Demonstration Research Corporation.

Evaluated
population:
1,458 Career Academy and Non-Career Academy youth in nine high
schools in or near large urban school districts. 799 participants were in the
Academy Group, and 659 participants were in the Non-Academy Group.

Approach:
See above studies for random assignment information.The objective of the
study was to determine the impacts of Career Academies on educational attainment
and labor market outcomes in the years following high school graduation. Data
were gathered through a survey administered to the sample approximately 48
months after graduation. The survey asked whether and when participants had
graduated from high school, and whether and when they enrolled in post-secondary
education. The survey also asked about work experiences, including the specific
industry they were in. Finally, the survey asked about participants’ plans for
the future.

Results:
With regard to labor market impacts, male participants in Career Academies
earned $212 per month more on average than non-participants. This difference
was attributed to higher employment rates, greater number of working hours, and
higher hourly wages. There were no labor market impacts for women in the
sample. Among students identified as being at medium risk of dropping out of
high school, participants in Career Academies had higher earnings and were
employed for longer periods of time than their non-Career Academies
counterparts, though these differences were not significant. There were among
the high-risk subgroup in this regard.

Overall, the study
found no differences between the experimental and control groups on educational
attainment (e.g., high school graduation rates and post-secondary enrollment).

Study 6

Kemple, J. J., & Willner, C. J. (2008). Career Academies:
Long-term impacts on labor market outcomes, educational attainment, and
transitions to adulthood
. New York, NY: MDRC.

Evaluated population: Students were followed through high school and up
to eight years afterwards; 1,458 completed the four-year survey, and 30 fewer
than that completed the eight-year survey. Over half of the sample is Hispanic
and 30 percent is black.

Approach: The design of this study is the same as the above studies. The
survey was administered yearly after the student left high school. The authors
averaged results for years one through four and years five through eight. Study
2 describes the high-, medium-, and low-risk subgroups.

Results: Averaged over the first four years and compared with the
non-Academy group, the Academy group had higher monthly earnings, a greater
number of months employed, higher number of average hours worked per week, and
higher average hourly wages. In the second four years, five through eight, the
intervention group had higher average monthly earnings, and a higher number of
hours worked per week, on average. For the subgroup of young men, all of the
above comparisons were significant, except average hourly wages in years five
through eight. The differences were of a greater magnitude as well, with the
Career Academies group earning more and remaining employed for a longer number
of months, compared with the differences for young women. For the subgroup of
young women none of these comparisons between intervention and control groups
were significant.

Career Academies had no significant impacts on high school completion,
post-secondary education enrollment, or educational attainment. The program did
not produce impacts in the high-risk, medium-risk, and low-risk subgroups or in
the young male or young female subgroups.

At the eighth follow-up, the Academy group was less likely to be single and more
likely to be married and living together, compared with the control group. The
individuals in this group were also more likely than those in the control group
to live independently (not with their parents) with their partner and
child(ren).

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Kemple, J. (1997).
Career Academies: Communities of support for students and teachers: Further
findings from a 10-site evaluation.
New York: Manpower Demonstration
Research Corporation.

Kemple, J., Poglinco, S., & Snipes, J. (1999). Career Academies: Building
career awareness and work-based learning activities through employer
partnerships.
New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation.
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Kemple, J. &
Snipes, J. (2000). Career Academies: Impacts on students’ engagement and
performance in high school.
New York: Manpower Demonstration Research
Corporation.

Kemple, J.J.
(2001). Career Academies: Impacts on students’ initial transitions to
post-secondary education and employment.
New York: Manpower Demonstration
Research Corporation.

Kemple, J.J. &
Scott-Clayton, J. (2004, March). Career Academies: Impacts on labor market
outcomes and educational attainment.
New York: Manpower Demonstration
Research Corporation.

Kemple, J. J., & Willner, C. J. (2008). Career Academies: Long-term impacts
on labor market outcomes, educational attainment, and transitions to adulthood
.
New York, NY: MDRC.

Program also discussed in the
following Child Trends publication(s):

Jekielek, S., Cochran, S. W., & Hair, E. (2002). Employment programs and
youth development: A synthesis.
Washington, DC: Child Trends.

KEYWORDS: Career;
Job Skills; High School Completion; Academic
Motivation/Self-concept/Expectations; School-based; Community-based; Urban; High
School; Adolescents (12-17); Co-ed; Black/African American; Hispanic/Latino.

Program information last updated 11/1/2010.