Career academies are small schools established within larger high schools, organized around broad career programs, and designed to provide a preparatory curriculum for college. They ensure the extensive and sustained personalized relationship between learners and teachers. In addition, they offer career-associated offsite learning experiences. In the United States, career academies form the oldest kind of high school reform. They have existed for 30 years and implementation has been successful in more than 1500 high schools across the country (Maxwell, 2000). Many of these high schools have single career academies. However, more and more have multiple career academies within their institutions. In addition, others are completely divided into career academies. In the following paper, I have my goal to explain the impact of career academies on students learning by examining the key elements of career academies.
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Career academies have three critical elements directly explaining the impact career academies have on student learning. The first important critical element is the organization of terms of career academies in small learning communities. In this organizational setup, students traditionally stay with a core group of teachers over the period they are in high school. These components include several disciplines or classes provided primarily to academy students in grades 9 to 12, a team of motivated teachers with a lead teacher coordinator who voluntary joins the program, voluntary participation by students who get discretion to focus on disciplines of their choice, and opportunities for students to fully participate in a full range of elective and non-elective courses and other school activities (Maxwell, 2000). The second element is also very important as it relates to the college preparatory curriculum with career themes. Career academies influence student learning as it combines academic and vocational curriculum into an integrated career, such as finance, health, and others. Improved student learning is realized as a combined curriculum encourages academic disciplines that meet aspects such as high school graduation and college entrance requirements, common planning time for teaching, projects that bring together skills acquired from academic and career classes, and counseling to ensure students have post-secondary planning (Maxwell, 2000). The third and the most important for the student’s future career critical element involves career academies partnerships with employers, community, and higher education institutions. This offers students a range of career development and work-oriented learning opportunities. In addition, career academies establish partnerships with parents, community organizations, and higher education institutions. Essentially, these partnerships impact immensely on student learning. These essential components of partnerships include the provision of mentoring and job shadowing by employers in career fields. This presents students with opportunities to observe employees on the job. In addition, using career academies community partners develop steering committees to oversee academy operations within selected career fields, parents support students’ decisions to enroll in academics and also participate in academies activities, last but not least, institutions higher learning award students college credits for completion of course work. (Maxwell, 2000).
In sum, career academies positively impact students learning. They directly link learners with peers and teachers and community partners in a disciplined environment. This fosters students’ academic success and mental and emotional health. Career academies were created to assist inter-city students to stay in school and receive meaningful occupational experiences. At present, career academies have transformed into a multi-faceted integrated approach to eliminating delinquent behavior among students. Thus, students are given enabling environment to concentrate on their preferred careers. Career academies also impact greatly on students’ learning as it accords them with an opportunity to become useful to their communities by shielding them away from bad company (Maxwell, 2000).
Maxwell. N., & Rubin, B. (2000). High School Career Academies. Michigan: W.E Upjohn Institute.