Promising Practice – Career Academies

Publication March 2011

Career academies are organized as small learning communities and offer curricula that combine academic and occupation-related course requirements designed to promote applied learning and to satisfy college entrance requirements. Academies establish partnerships with local employers to build sequences of career readiness and work-based learning opportunities for their students.

Since 1993, MDRC (formerly Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation) has been studying the career academy approach using a random assignment research design in a diverse group of nine high schools in medium- and large-sized school districts across the United States. MDRC’s 2008 report, Career Academies: Long-Term Impacts on Labor Market Outcomes, Educational Attainment, and Transitions to Adulthood, summarized in this Promising Practice, describes a longitudinal random assignment evaluation of career academies serving more than 1,400 young people from nine high schools located in or near a large urban school district with substantially higher percentages of Black and Latino students than in school districts nationally, as well as higher dropout rates, higher unemployment rates, and higher percentages of low-income families.

The report describes the long-term effects of career academies on outcomes associated with the transition from adolescence to adulthood, particularly on labor market participation, educational attainment, and family formation, over the eight years following scheduled graduation from high school.

Download the article (PDF)