New Research on College and Career Academies in California

Career academies are a widely replicated and well-researched model for college and career preparation in high schools. The UC Berkeley College & Career Academy Support Network (CCASN) has just published a longitudinal description of students enrolled in state-funded career academies in California, also known as California Partnership Academies (CPA). Among the key findings of the new report:

  • The greatest attrition among academy students occurs between grades 10 and 11, when about one-third of students leave the academy.  More than 80 percent of academy 11th graders remain in the same academy in grade 12. 
  • More than 96 percent of students who start a CPA in grade 10 and remain in the academy through grade 12 succeed in graduating at the end of grade 12.  More than 60 percent of these academy graduates reportedly complete the a-g course sequence, which are course requirements for admission to California State University or the University of California.
  • Academy 10th graders were more likely than non-academy 10th graders to enroll at the same high school in grade 11 (including both those who did and those who did not remain in the academy), and more of the academy 10th graders were enrolled in a California public school in grade 11.
  • On average, there was little year-to-year change in academy students’ attendance, credits, or grades.
  • There was considerable variation among academies in all of these outcomes.  This information can be used to identify and replicate practices in academies with more positive outcomes.

This is the third in a series of three reports analyzing data on students in CPAs, all available on CCASN web site.  The first, Profile of the California Partnership Academies, 2009-2010, gave an overview of CPAs, and included some comparisons between CPA students and all high school students in California.  Salient findings included higher graduation rates for CPA seniors, and higher a-g course completion rates for CPA graduates, compared to the state as a whole.  These are encouraging results, given that at least half of the students entering each CPA in grade 10 must meet “at-risk” criteria defined in the law.

The second report, Comparing Students in Each Academy with Non-Academy Students at the Same High School, 2009-10, examined whether CPA students really come from more challenging circumstances than other students at the same high schools.  CPAs are typically located in high schools where many or most students would satisfy the “at-risk” criteria stated in the law.  The second report therefore compared students in each CPA with non-academy students at the same high school.  Results indicated that CPAs generally do enroll students who face greater challenges than other students at the same school –– including lower family income and parents with less education –– but considerable numbers of individual CPAs are exceptions to this general finding. Administrators and teachers can use this kind of information to identify and replicate effective practices, or to guide improvement of individual CPAs.

A description, history, and summary of research on career academies is available here.

David Stern is the director and co-founder of the College and Career Academy Support Network at UC Berkeley.

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