The study took place in 9 high schools, including one in the District of Columbia and others in large urban and small cities in Pennsylvania (1 school), Maryland (1 school), Florida (2 schools), Texas (1 school), and California (3 schools).
The researchers randomly assigned 1,028 eligible students to the intervention group and 862 eligible students to the comparison group. A total of 1,482 students in grades 9 through 12 were included in the study. Approximately 59 percent of the students were female, 29 percent were Black, 7 percent were White, and 64 percent were Other or unknown. Fifty-seven percent were Hispanic. Eight percent of students were English language learners. The authors did not report on the percentage of students who received free or reduced price lunch.
Career Academies is an academic and career development program for high school students that aims to increase their engagement and academic performance, while also providing students with the credentials and skills needed to successfully transition to post-secondary education and a career. Career Academies are small learning communities within high schools with about 50 to 75 students per grade. Students are taught by a team of about 3 to 5 teachers starting in grade 9 or 10 through grade 12. Career Academies provide students with academic and vocational courses that are based on a career theme. Students take at least three academic courses and at least one career- or occupation-related course per year. The curricula include a career theme that is based on local employment needs and demand for expertise, such as health professions, business and finance, electronics, travel and tourism, and information technology. Career Academies form partnerships with local employers to expose students to different career options and provide students with work-based learning opportunities. Through these partnerships, local employers sponsor a range of work- and career-related activities for students. Career Academies work with employer representatives to develop career-awareness and development activities, including field trips, job shadowing, and outside speakers from the business community.
Most students in the comparison group received business-as-usual high school instruction, supports, and learning opportunities. However, about 7 percent of the comparison group students enrolled in a Career Academy at some point, and about 4 percent participated in Career Academies through high school graduation.
Support for implementation
All schools that were recruited for the study had implemented the Career Academies framework for at least two years prior to the beginning of the study. The teachers in the participating schools who taught the Career Academies model came from a variety of academic and vocational disciplines and had similar background characteristics as other teachers in the same high school who taught classes outside of the Career Academies.