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Career Academies

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

Provides small learning communities within high schools, combining academic and technical career curricula, and offering workplace opportunities through partnership with local employers to enhance school engagement and performance and provide students with the credentials and skills needed to make successful transitions to post-secondary education and, eventually, a career.

Program Outcomes

  • Employment
  • Truancy - School Attendance

Program Type

  • Academic Services
  • Employment - Vocational
  • School - Environmental Strategies
  • Truancy Prevention

Program Setting

  • School

Continuum of Intervention

  • Universal Prevention (Entire Population)
  • Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)


  • Late Adolescence (15-18) - High School


  • Male and Female


  • All Race/Ethnicity


  • Blueprints: Promising
  • Crime Solutions: Effective
  • OJJDP Model Programs: Effective
  • Social Programs That Work: Top Tier
  • What Works Clearinghouse: Meets Standards Without Reservations - Positive Effect

Program Information Contact

Erin Fender
College and Career Academy Support Network
University of California
Berkeley Graduate School of Education
Berkeley, CA
(707) 591-6375

Program Developer/Owner

  • College and Career Academy Support Network

Brief Description of the Program

Career Academies are school-based programs that seek to reduce dropout rates and improve school performance and career readiness among high-school youth. A Career Academy (CA) is organized as a school-within-a-school, where students work in "small learning communities." Each small learning community involves a small number of students working with the same group of teachers for three or four years of high school with the aim being to create a more personalized and supportive learning environment for students. CAs offer students a combination of academic and career-technical curricula and use a career theme to integrate the two. In an effort to build connections between school and work and to provide students with a range of career development and work-based learning opportunities, CAs establish partnerships with local employers. To encourage post-graduate education they also build linkages to local colleges through curricular articulation, dual enrollment programs, and field trips to 2- and 4-year institutions.

See: Full Description


At the 12th grade survey:

  • Career Academies (CAs) increased both the level of interpersonal support students experienced during high school and their participation in career awareness and work-based learning activities.
  • Among students with a high-risk of dropping out, CAs reduced dropout rates, improved attendance, increased academic course-taking, and increased the likelihood of earning enough credits to graduate on time.
  • Among students with a low-risk of dropping-out, CAs increased the likelihood of graduating on time. CAs also increased career-related course-taking for these students without reducing their likelihood of completing a basic core academic curriculum.
  • In sites where CAs produced particularly dramatic enhancements in the interpersonal support that students received from teachers and peers, the CAs reduced dropout rates and improved school engagement for both high-risk and medium-risk subgroups. CAs that did not enhance these supports actually increased dropout rates and reduced school engagement for some students.
  • CAs did not improve standardized math and reading achievement scores.

8 Years After Students' Scheduled Graduation:

  • CAs students averaged 11% more in earnings than their non-CA group counterparts; when disaggregated by sex, significant effects were found for males only.
  • CAs students worked 1.7 hours more per week.
  • CAs students had a significantly higher percentage of living independently with children and a spouse/partner than non-Career Academy students, in the eight years following graduation.
  • No effects on high school completion rates, postsecondary enrollment, and postsecondary attainment.

Compared to California students statewide, students attending California Partnership Academies showed higher

  • graduation rates
  • completion rates of course requirements for college entrance

Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

Career Academies were developed to be utilized with multiple racial and ethnic groups, and have demonstrated efficacy within schools that serve large minority populations. They also appear to be more effective with male participants, both in terms of labor market and social outcomes.

Risk and Protective Factors

Risk Factors
  • School: Low school commitment and attachment*
Protective Factors
  • Individual: Academic self-efficacy*
  • Family: Parental involvement in education
  • School: Opportunities for prosocial involvement in education*, Rewards for prosocial involvement in school*

*Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

See also: Career Academies Logic Model (PDF)

Training and Technical Assistance

Training and technical assistance is offered in how to establish an individual Career Academy within a given high school or more broadly restructure one or more high schools around this approach. There is a wide range of services provided, and the cost depends on a number of factors, such as the size of the academy or high school or district, number of staff members to be involved in such training, where they are in the knowledge/implementation process (e.g., brand new, expanding), how much of what kinds of help is needed, travel costs, etc. The range of services provided is available on the website at:

As a first step, it is recommended that interested persons start with a telephone conversation so that they can be directed to materials, all of which are free and available for downloading.

Brief Evaluation Methodology

A large scale, multi-site, random assignment research design was utilized to evaluate the effectiveness of Career Academies (CAs). The researchers studied nine CAs with a sample size of 1,764 students. Students in the sample were identified in the 8th or 9th grade and were followed through their senior year of high school and up until eight years post-graduation. Data utilized in the study consisted of survey information provided by both Academy and non-Academy students in the study sample, performance indicators obtained from school records and transcripts, and standardized test scores from a test the researchers administered to the sample of students. Qualitative data was collected during field visits to each participating site.

Another study compared students in 467 California Partnership Academies, which used the Career Academy model, to students statewide. The design involved no assignment, matching, or comparisons of students over time.


Bradby, D., Dayton, C., Hanna, T., & Malloy, A. (2007). A profile of the California Partnership Academies, 2004-2005. Berkeley, CA: ConnectEd, and Career Academy Support Network, Graduate School of Education, University of California.

Dayton, C., Hester, C. H., & Stern, D. (2011). Profile of the California Partnership Academies 2009-2010. Career Academy Support Network, University of California Berkeley, and California Department of Education.

Kemple, J. J. (2004). Career Academies: Impacts on labor market outcomes and educational attainment. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC),

Kemple, J. J. & Snipes, J. C. (2000). Career Academies: Impacts on students' engagement and performance in high school. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC),

Kemple, J. J. & Willner, C. J. (2008a). Career Academies: Long-term impacts on labor market outcomes, educational attainment, and transitions to adulthood. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC),

Kemple, J. J. & Willner, C. J. (2008b). Technical resources for Career Academies: Long-term impacts on labor market outcomes, educational attainment, and transitions to adulthood. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC),