Author:†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Margaret Terry Orr
Title:†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Shaping Postsecondary Transitions:† Influences of the National Academy Foundation Career Academy
Institution:†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Institute on Education and The Economy IEE BREIF
Issue Number:††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ISSN 1059 2776
Brief Number / Month / Year:†††††††††††††† Number 29 / April 2003
A confluence of educational issues and policy developments has brought renewed emphasis on efforts to improve adolescentsí transitions to further education and careers.† With raised academic expectations for all students and an economy that requires a more highly skilled labor force, more students are graduating from high school and enrolling in college.† Yet many come under-prepared, flounder, and drop out, due in large part to inadequate high school coursework and insufficient college preparation (Adelman, 1999).
Since the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) called for higher academic standards, educators have looked for ways in increase high school performance levels, particularly among those who were not traditionally viewed as college-bound.† More recently, educators have become particularly concerned with studentsí poor engagement in their senior year (The National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001).
The high school has become increasingly criticized for its inadequate curriculum content, organization, and focus (American Youth Policy Forum, 2000; Education Trust, 2001).† Some critics have questioned the nature and content of teaching─as hindering rather than enhancing student learning because of a reliance on a narrow range of teaching strategies and de-contextualized content─and high schoolsí limited relationships with business and industry.† Among the strategies thought to facilitate high school student learning are small schools (Lee & Smith, 1995) and academic curriculum linked to real-world experiences (Resnick, 1987).
Career academies have considerable potential:† they use career planning and exposure to increase studentsí engagement in schooling, while sharpening studentsí preparation for college and careers.† The emphasis on academics through an integrated and contextualized curriculum can improve studentsí learning, while work-based learning and business involvement enrich and diversity studentsí high school experience.† The career academyís partial school-within-a-school design creates a more intimate learning environment.† The career academy model has spread rapidly over the past 20 years and is now being promoted as an integral part of many high school reforms (McPartland et al., 1998).
Although there is evidence of its impact as a quality high school experience (Kemple, 1997; Orr et al., 1987; Orr & Fanscali, 1995), limited and somewhat contradictory research exists on the modelís effectiveness in facilitating quality postsecondary transitions.† Some research has pointed to post-high school success (Maxwell, 2001; Orr, 1990; Orr & Franscali, 1995).† However, Manpower Demonstration Research Corporationís (MDRC) methodologically rigorous random-assignment study of nine academies found little impact on participantsí high school graduation and initial college-going rates─they and their comparison group had similar, high rates (Kemple & Snipes, 2000).
One particular model of career academy, sponsored by the National Academy Foundation (NAF), embodies all the key features thought to define a successful career academy─contextualized academics and applied coursework, student internships, business and industry participation, and an emphasis on college and career planning within the industryís field─and therefore may provide better postsecondary outcomes than might exist for more typical career academies.† NAF provides curricular support, professional development, and technical assistance to a national network of high school academies of finance, travel and tourism, and information technology.
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