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Career Academies: Exploring College and Career Options
Last registered on February 17, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Career Academies: Exploring College and Career Options
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001692
Initial registration date
February 17, 2017
Last updated
February 17, 2017 3:32 PM EST
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
New York University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
1993-08-01
End date
2008-06-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Established more than 30 years ago, Career Academies have become a widely used high school reform initiative that aims to keep students engaged in school and prepare them for successful transitions to postsecondary education and employment. Typically serving between 150 and 200 students from grades 9 or 10 through grade 12, Career Academies are organized as small learning communities, combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme, and establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities. At the time of this report, there were estimated to be more than 2,500 Career Academies operating around the country.

From 1993 to 2008, MDRC conducted a uniquely rigorous evaluation of the Career Academy approach that used a random assignment research design in a diverse group of nine high schools across the United States. Located in medium- and large-sized school districts, the schools confronted many of the educational challenges found in low-income urban settings. The participating Career Academies were able to implement and sustain the core features of the approach, and they served a cross section of the student populations in their host schools. The final report from this study describes how Career Academies influenced students' labor market prospects and postsecondary educational attainment in the eight years following their expected graduation. The results are based on the experiences of more than 1,400 young people, approximately 85 percent of whom are Hispanic or African-American.

Key Findings
---The Career Academies produced sustained earnings gains that averaged 11 percent (or $2,088) more per year for Academy group members than for individuals in the non-Academy group--a $16,704 boost in total earnings over the eight years of follow-up (in 2006 dollars).
---These labor market impacts were concentrated among young men, a group that has experienced a severe decline in real earnings in recent years. Through a combination of increased wages, hours worked, and employment stability, real earnings for young men in the Academy group increased by $3,731 (17 percent) per year--or nearly $30,000 over eight years.
---Overall, the Career Academies served as viable pathways to a range of postsecondary education opportunities, but they do not appear to have been more effective than options available to the non-Academy group. More than 90 percent of both groups graduated from high school or received a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, and half completed a postsecondary credential.
---The Career Academies produced an increase in the percentage of young people living independently with children and a spouse or partner. Young men also experienced positive impacts on marriage and being custodial parents.

The findings demonstrate the feasibility of improving labor market preparation and successful school-to-work transitions without compromising academic goals and preparation for college. Investments in career-related experiences during high school can produce substantial and sustained improvements in the labor market prospects and transitions to adulthood of youth. In fact, Career Academies are one of the few youth-focused interventions that have been found to improve the labor market prospects of young men. At the same time, Career Academies have proven to be challenging to implement on a large scale with high levels of fidelity, and the evidence from this evaluation may not apply to programs that are partially implemented or that use only selected features of the Academy approach. Further research should be conducted to determine the effects of key Academy components.
Registration Citation
Citation
Kemple, James J.. 2017. "Career Academies: Exploring College and Career Options." AEA RCT Registry. February 17. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1692-1.0.
Former Citation
Kemple, James J.. 2017. "Career Academies: Exploring College and Career Options." AEA RCT Registry. February 17. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1692/history/14148.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Career Academies are "schools-within-schools" in which groups of students (usually 30 to 60 per grade in grades 9 through 12 or 10 through 12) take several classes together each year with the same group of teachers. The Academies focus on a career theme, such as health, business and finance, or electronics, which is usually determined by local employment opportunities and evidence of growing demand for such expertise in the marketplace. Career Academies' curricula consist of traditional academic classes (such as math, English, science, and social studies) combined with occupation-related classes that focus on the career theme. Local employers from that field help plan and guide the program, and they serve as mentors and provide work experience for the students.
Intervention Start Date
1993-08-01
Intervention End Date
1998-06-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment, employment, earnings
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Each of the students in the sample applied for a place in one of the participating Career Academies and was deemed to be appropriate for the programs. Because more applicants were appropriate than the programs could serve, a lottery was used to choose which students would be invited to enroll. Approximately 55 percent of the students in the applicant pool were randomly selected to enroll in a Career Academy, and they constitute the study's Academy group. The remaining students (about 45 percent of the applicant pool) continued or enrolled in the high schools' regular education programs and constitute the study's non-Academy control group.

The Sites
Each of the nine high schools in this evaluation is located in or near a large urban school district with substantially higher percentages of African-American and Hispanic students than exist in school districts nationally, as well as higher dropout rates, higher unemployment rates, and higher percentages of low-income families. The schools were selected strategically on the basis of several criteria:

-- The schools had implemented and sustained the core features of the Career Academy approach for at least two years.
-- There was a clear contrast--along the core dimensions of the Academy model--between the Career Academy and other programs within the high school.
-- The Career Academy served a diverse population of students but made explicit efforts to include students who were perceived to be at risk of dropping out.
-- The high school and its Career Academy were willing and able to accommodate random assignment and other key features of the evaluation design.

Data Sources
Since the study began in 1993, data for the Career Academies Evaluation were obtained from sample members' high school transcripts and from surveys administered during high school and at three points during the first eight years following their scheduled graduation from high school. The primary data for the current report were obtained from a survey administered to sample members approximately 96 months after their scheduled graduation from high school (11 to 12 years after they entered the study). The Career Academies Evaluation's Eight-Year Post-High School Follow-Up Survey focused on the fifth through eighth years following scheduled graduation from high school and asked sample members:

-- Whether and when they graduated from high school or received a General Educational Development (GED) certificate and whether and when they enrolled in postsecondary education programs and institutions. Students who were enrolled in postsecondary education programs were asked about the programs' characteristics, whether they completed the program, and what degree or certificate, if any, they received.
-- Information about their work experiences during the previous four years, including which month and year they started each job that they held during this period, which month and year they left each job, the number of hours they worked per week, the number of weeks they worked per month, and the hourly wage they earned.
-- Information about the industries in which they worked for each job they held during the previous four years, and the type of work they performed. For the most recent jobs that respondents held, the survey also asked about the types of skills they used, how their employment might have been connected to high school experiences, and how their work experience might be preparing them for the future.
-- Information about marital status, having children, living situations, and other experiences in their lives and their plans for the future.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
School lottery
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
n/a
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,953 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
889 students control, 1,064 students in Career Academies
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
June 30, 1998, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
June 01, 2008, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
n/a
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1,428 individuals in final follow-up, which is 81% of 1,764 in follow-up study sample.
(Original sample was 1,953, but one of the original ten sites disbanded after two years, so its students are not included in the follow-up study sample.)
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Follow-up data includes responses from 646 individuals control, 782 individuals in Career Academies (out of 805 control, 959 Career Academies in full follow-up study sample).
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
Abstract
Critics of America's education system contend that young people are leaving high schools without the preparation they need for good jobs: ones that pay well, provide benefits, and offer opportunity for advancement. Economic prospects for high school dropouts are especially grim; they can expect to earn about half as much as graduates with some post-high school education. Increasingly, today's labor market places a premium on such abilities as hands-on problem-solving, technical knowledge, and effective teamwork, yet such skills are rarely taught in large comprehensive high schools. In fact, fewer than half the youth in the United States acquire the skills and knowledge required for meaningful and productive work in today's labor market, according to the Department of Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS).

SCANS, and numerous reports from researchers and blue-ribbon panels, have heightened the call from policymakers, educators, and the business community for innovative responses to these problems. Often referred to as "school-to-work transition" reforms, these efforts aim to help high school students achieve academically, while providing them with marketable skills, work-based learning experiences, and clearer pathways to post-secondary education and productive employment. One of the best-established and most promising school-to-work approaches is the Career Academy.

Career Academies are one of several school-to-work approaches specifically authorized under the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994, a major milestone in the school-to-work movement. The Career Academies are "schools-within-schools" in which groups of students (usually 30 to 60 per grade in grades 9 through 12 or 10 through 12) take several classes together each year with the same group of teachers. The Academies focus on a career theme, such as health, business and finance, or electronics, which is usually determined by local employment opportunities and evidence of growing demand for such expertise in the marketplace. Career Academies' curricula consist of traditional academic classes (such as math, English, science, and social studies) combined with occupation-related classes that focus on the career theme. Local employers from that field help plan and guide the program, and they serve as mentors and provide work experience for the students.

A growing number of states and school districts are beginning to invest in new Career Academies and are looking for evidence of their effectiveness and for information about how they can be implemented and sustained. To meet this need, MDRC is conducting a unique evaluation of the Academy approach. The evaluation will provide a rigorous and credible assessment of the extent to which the Academy approach improves students' engagement and performance in high school, as well as their preparation for further education and employment beyond high school. The evaluation includes 10 high schools and the Career Academies that operate within them. The Academies are located in a diverse set of urban and small-city high schools that serve high proportions of low-income students, students of color, and students with limited English proficiency. The evaluation is being supported by a consortium of funders, including the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor and 14 private foundations: the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, Ford Foundation, Commonwealth Fund, William T. Grant Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Foundation, George Gund Foundation, Grable Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, American Express Foundation, Alcoa Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Westinghouse Foundation, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

This is the first report on the Career Academies Evaluation. It includes several preliminary findings that have important implications both for the evaluation and for policy and practice related to the Career Academies and other school-to-work approaches. Later reports will include additional analyses of how the Career Academies operate and will examine students' and teachers' experiences in the Academy and non-Academy high school environments. These reports will also include findings on the extent to which the Academies improve education and work-related outcomes for students.
Citation
Kemple, James J., and JoAnn Rock. 1996. Career Academies: Early Implementation Lessons. New York: MDRC.
Abstract
Established more than 30 years ago, Career Academies have become a widely used high school reform initiative that aims to keep students engaged in school and prepare them for successful transitions to postsecondary education and employment. Typically serving between 150 and 200 high school students from grade 9 or 10 through grade 12, Career Academies are organized as small learning communities, combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme, and establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities. There are estimated to be more than 2,500 Career Academies across the country.

Since 1993, MDRC has been conducting a uniquely rigorous evaluation of the Career Academy approach that uses a random assignment research design in a diverse group of nine high schools across the United States. Located in medium- and large-sized school districts, the schools confront many of the educational challenges found in low-income urban settings. The participating Career Academies were able to implement and sustain the core features of the approach, and they served a cross-section of the student populations in their host schools. This report describes how Career Academies influenced students' capacity to improve their labor market prospects and sustain their engagement in postsecondary education programs in the four years following their expected graduation. The results are based on the experiences of more than 1,400 young people, approximately 85 percent of whom are Hispanic or African-American.

Key Findings
-- The Career Academies substantially improved the labor market prospects of young men, a group that has experienced a severe decline in real earnings in recent years. Through a combination of increased wages, hours worked, and employment stability, the young men in the Academy group earned over $10,000 (18 percent) more than those in the non-Academy control group over the four-year follow-up period.
-- The Career Academies had no significant impacts (positive or negative) on the labor market outcomes for young women. This may be due, in part, to the fact that young women in both the Academy and the non-Academy group had greater propensity than the young men to be attending school or taking care of children.
-- Overall, the Career Academies served as viable pathways to a range of postsecondary education opportunities, but they do not appear to have been more effective than options available to the non-Academy group. More than 90 percent of the students in the Academy and non-Academy groups graduated from high school or received a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. By the end of the follow-up period, more than half the sample had completed a postsecondary credential or were working toward one.
-- The positive labor market impacts were concentrated among Academy group members who were at high or medium risk of dropping out of high school when they entered the programs. Although the Career Academies reduced enrollments in postsecondary education among those who entered the programs at highest risk of dropping out, this does not appear to have diminished the substantial earnings advantage produced by the Academies for this subgroup. The lack of labor market impacts for the low-risk subgroup may be due to this group's greater focus, relative to the others, on postsecondary education.

The findings demonstrate the feasibility of improving labor market preparation and successful school-to-work transitions without compromising academic goals and preparation for college. They provide compelling evidence that investments in career-related experiences during high school can produce substantial and sustained improvements in the labor market prospects of youth during their post-secondary years. In fact, Career Academies are one of the few youth-focused interventions that have been found to improve the labor market prospects of young men.
Citation
Kemple, James J. 2004. Career Academies: Impacts on Work and Educational Attainment. New York: MDRC.
Abstract
Established more than 30 years ago, Career Academies have become a widely used high school reform initiative that aims to keep students engaged in school and prepare them for successful transitions to postsecondary education and employment. Typically serving between 150 and 200 students from grades 9 or 10 through grade 12, Career Academies are organized as small learning communities, combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme, and establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities. There are estimated to be more than 2,500 Career Academies operating around the country.

Since 1993, MDRC has been conducting a uniquely rigorous evaluation of the Career Academy approach that uses a random assignment research design in a diverse group of nine high schools across the United States. Located in medium- and large-sized school districts, the schools confront many of the educational challenges found in low-income urban settings. The participating Career Academies were able to implement and sustain the core features of the approach, and they served a cross-section of the student populations in their host schools. This report describes how Career Academies influenced students' labor market prospects and postsecondary educational attainment in the eight years following their expected graduation. The results are based on the experiences of more than 1,400 young people, approximately 85 percent of whom are Hispanic or African-American.

Key Findings
-- The Career Academies produced sustained earnings gains that averaged 11 percent (or $2,088) more per year for Academy group members than for individuals in the non-Academy group--a $16,704 boost in total earnings over the eight years of follow-up (in 2006 dollars).
-- These labor market impacts were concentrated among young men, a group that has experienced a severe decline in real earnings in recent years. Through a combination of increased wages, hours worked, and employment stability, real earnings for young men in the Academy group increased by $3,731 (17 percent) per year--or nearly $30,000 over eight years.
-- Overall, the Career Academies served as viable pathways to a range of postsecondary education opportunities, but they do not appear to have been more effective than options available to the non-Academy group. More than 90 percent of both groups graduated from high school or received a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, and half completed a postsecondary credential.
-- The Career Academies produced an increase in the percentage of young people living independently with children and a spouse or partner. Young men also experienced positive impacts on marriage and being custodial parents.

The findings demonstrate the feasibility of improving labor market preparation and successful school-to-work transitions without compromising academic goals and preparation for college. Investments in career-related experiences during high school can produce substantial and sustained improvements in the labor market prospects and transitions to adulthood of youth. In fact, Career Academies are one of the few youth-focused interventions that have been found to improve the labor market prospects of young men. At the same time, Career Academies have proven to be challenging to implement on a large scale with high levels of fidelity, and the evidence from this evaluation may not apply to programs that are partially implemented or that use only selected features of the Academy approach. Further research should be conducted to determine the effects of key Academy components.
Citation
Kemple, James J. 2008. Career Academies: Long-Term Impacts on Work, Education, and Transitions to Adulthood. New York: MDRC.
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS