SLCs and Career Academies

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Why are these good ideas?

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The rationales for SLCs and career academies are several:

  • Many high schools are very large today, and students often find them alienating and fail to make connections in them, thus becoming likelier dropouts.
  • One of the biggest problems in high schools is boredom, caused in large part by students who don’t see the relevance of what they are being taught.
  • Grouping students into smaller units, showing them connections among their subjects, and orienting them to the future can help to address these problems.
  • Academies in particular promote connections: among subjects, between what goes on in school and outside it, and between high school and what comes after.
  • A number of studies of these approaches have shown positive impacts on such measures as attendance, retention, grades, graduation rates, and employment.

A central question in this context is: How do these approaches relate to more college going?  Here is what researchers think:

  • SLCs bring students together into a structure that makes them feel more connected to their teachers and other students, and thus more engaged.
  • Teachers get to know their students well and take on roles usually associated with counselors, such as helping to guide them toward future goals. 
  • In career academies students orient their high school coursework toward some future endeavor and learn the value of higher education in their field. 
  • One longitudinal study demonstrated a statistically significant positive impact on college going among academy graduates.

The United States Department of Education and  Education Northwest websites have references to many research studies.  One that provides a brief history of career academies and the research done on them is the Career Academies Support Network's Career Academies, A Proven Strategy to Prepare High School Students for College and Careers.


Combining Academic and Career-Technical Courses to Make College an Option for More Students

Stern, Stearns; 2008

Explains rationale for combining academic and career-technical courses to prepare students for college and careers. Summarizes research and describes challenges, with specific reference to California. Stern-Stearns1-21-08.doc (104.45KB)

A Proven Strategy to Prepare High School Students for College and Careers

Stern, D., Dayton, C., Raby, M. Career Academy Support Network, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education; Updated 2010.

The growth and evolution of career academies; a review of their impacts on students; the role of SLCs and academies in restructuring high schools.


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Last modified on 12/10/2010

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