SLCs and Career Academies

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How do you know if they’re helping?

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Do career academies and other SLCs in fact produce better results for students?  Websites of the United States Department of Education (ED),  Education Northwest, and the Career Academies Support Network (CASN) all list reports on past studies.

Researchers have found that CASN's Learning by Doing Career Academies provides a review of the research regarding academies. (This and many other CASN documents are available in the pdf format from the CASN Resources page.)

However, what about your SLCs or academies? How do you determine whether they’re making a meaningful difference for your students? The simple theory behind these approaches is that if you implement them well, student performance will improve. So what do you need to measure? Whether you've implemented the program well, and whether student performance is improving.

How do you gauge program implementation? One simple approach is to use CASN's Self-Assessment Guide for Small Learning Communities and Career Academies . This provides guidelines to gauge how well 20 key features of SLCs have been implemented, plus five more for academies. Teachers and other staff members working in these programs can use this tool as a guide to spotting weaknesses and planning improvements. Education Northwest has also developed some useful instruments in this regard.

Assessing student performance requires collecting data. While there has been much emphasis in recent years on use of state tests, there are many other measures also available, with useful data often just sitting in school databases. Examples: reduced disciplinary actions; improved attendance, retention, credits earned, and grade point averages; on-time graduation rates; and…college admission rates. If you track these from the start, so there is a baseline against which to measure progress, and watch for improvement over time, you will have conducted a useful evaluation.

Resources

Career Academies: 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. http://casn.berkeley.edu/resources.php?r=158&c=1

Self-Assessment Guide for Small Learning Communities and Career Academies

Dayton, Charles. Career Academy Support Network, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education; 2007.

This guide lets a teacher team check its SLC against 20 key features (or 25 for an academy), with a rating system and clear guidelines for each, and includes suggestions for analyzing student data. http://casn.berkeley.edu/resources.php?r=152&c=5

Learning by Doing Career Academies

Stern, D., Wu, C., Dayton, C., Maul, A. Career Academy Support Network, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education; 2006.

Reviews past academy research approaches and findings, and offers three measurable dimensions of program implementation that provide gauges of quality. http://casn.berkeley.edu/resources.php?r=163&c=1

 

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Last modified on 12/13/2010