The term career academy was framed by Stern (1995) to explain the type of high school configuration that came from Philadelphia and later spread nationwide. Career academies have three main elements that define it: one, it is a school within a school institution in which academy students at each level consider a set of classes together, and hold with the same group for at least two years; two, uses a curriculum that has academic courses that satisfy college entrance requirements, along with technical classes, all associated to the academy theme; three, emphasizes employer partnership to offer internships and other experiences outside the classroom, related to academy theme. Since career academies include both school based and work based elements, students get chance to enrich and use their academic course work in an environment away from the classroom. To illustrate what impact career academies have on student learning, four research studies will be reviewed.
A Review of Related Literature
What Impact Do Career Academies have on student Learning
Reller (1987) study on two academies in California deduced significant course credit earnings by academy students compared to a matched comparison group from same high schools. The attrition rates for one year ranged from 3 to 6 percent in academies, and ranged between 10 to 21 percent in comparison group.
In a study conducted by Stern (1995) on 10 academies funded by state in California, learners tended to perform significantly well compared to matched groups from similar high schools in terms of credits earned, attendance, average grades, and likelihood of staying in schools.
There was also an evaluation of 10 programs that applied some form of vocational to enhance excellence in high schools by Stern (1995). Among the sites considered, two were academies. Generally, this indicated better results than other programs, enhancing student guidance, grades, credits, and likelihood of finishing high school.
Maxwell (2001) analyzed between 1991- 95 school records for three cohorts of learners in grades 10 to 12 in an urban district including nine career academies. Effecting controls for other features of students, academy learners received significantly good grades than non-academy students, in both academy and non-academy classes. About 92 percent of students from the academy graduated from high school within the study period, compared to 82 percent of non-academy students. The studies discovered no important differences in wages between former academy and non-academy students. However, former academy learners more often accepted their high school program adequately prepared them for further education and employment. Maxwell (2001) in a subsequent study of learners at public universities discovered that academy graduates were less likely to require remedial coursework. In addition, they were more likely to complete bachelors’ degree, compared to similar graduates from same district.
Different researchers examining different sets of career academies have discovered consistent out performance by academy learners against non-academy learners on various measures of academic success while in high school. Analyses of studies have found persuasive and consistent evidence that career academies impact positively student learning at different times and places. Integrated curriculums and contextualized academics enhanced by academy approach can add value to student learning.
In sum, national concerns currently regarding high school curriculum, and purpose is closely related to career academies approach. Among the key, concern is associated with curriculum content reflected in current stress on enhancing academic standards and establishing clear academic priorities for all learners.
- Maxwell, N. L.(2001). Step to college: Moving from the high school career academy through the four-year university. Evaluation Review 25(6):619-654
- Reller, D. J. (1987). A longitudinal study of the graduates of the Peninsula Academies, final report. Palo Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences
- Stern, D., Raby, M., and Dayton, C. (1992). Career academies: Partnerships for reconstructing American high schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass