California Career Academies. (Front and Center)
A new report from the California Policy Research Center at the University of California contains some positive results for students who attend career academies.
A 1985 assembly bill in the state offered competitive planning grants of $25,000 to 10 schools to initiate career academy programs and $50,000 per year for initial implementation. Three years later, a senate bill created the Partnership Academies program, offering planning and implementation grants. In 1999, 180 schools in 35 counties received support.
Career academies in California vary, but they share the school-within-a-school structure, integrated academic and vocational curriculum, and employer and workplace involvement. According to the report, "Career Academy Programs in California," well-developed career academies increased their students' academic knowledge and skills in comparison to students taking other high school programs. Career academies also increased high school completion rates and increased the probability of postsecondary education attendance. The need for later remediation in English was decreased, and the probability of university graduation for students who were not likely to attend--much less graduate--was increased.
The components needed for successful career academies are listed by the California report as:
* a relatively complete curriculum
* a school-within-a-school that sheltered students from hostile or indifferent school environments and provided a social support system of teachers and peers
* large amounts of startup resources in terms of time, equipment and internships
* a program head whose commitment, energy and devotion led and inspired teachers and students
* school and community support, including business support for work-based-learning components. …