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Happy Birthday Career Academies: 40 Years Old!

Earlier this month, the career academies movement celebrated its’ 40th birthday in Philadelphia, the birthplace of career academies.  The reasons for starting career academies 40 ago hold true today – making learning relevant, reducing the drop out rate, connecting students to the workplace, creating opportunities for students, engaging the local community in the school, increasing achievment, and improving earnings potential. Given the fickleness of reform initiatives, any reform effort lasting 40 years is a pretty outstanding accomplishment. Congratulations!

To acknowledge the momentus occasion, the National Career Academy Coalition commissioned a paper: High School Career Academies: A 40-Year Proven Model for Improving College and Career Readiness .  The paper was highlighted at a November 4 briefing where speakers Kelly Hastings from Senator Enzi’s office, Connie Scotchel-Gross from Palm Beach County, FL, and Andy Chavez from Marriott spoke about their perspectives and shared their experiences with career academies.  The panel reflected the important intersection of partners that career acdaemies bring together – education, government, community and business.  The publication is a great resource that provides an overview of career academies, as well as shares a series of policy recommendations.

What makes career academies unique?  In addition to outlasting many other reform efforts, career academies have a very strong research base and proof of impact.  MDRC did a random assignment study of career academies that found a positive impact on attendance, earned credits, and high school graduation and college attendance rates. Additionally, participation in a career academy increased post-high school employment rates and earnings, particularly for at-risk young men.

With a focus on quality, a coalition of organizations created the National Standards of Practice that guide the continuous improvement. Happy birthday career academies! Wishing you 40 more years of success! Thanks for helping so many students succeed!

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