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Career Academies

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

Provides small learning communities within high schools, combining academic and technical career curricula, and offering workplace opportunities through partnership with local employers to enhance school engagement and performance and provide students with the credentials and skills needed to make successful transitions to post-secondary education and, eventually, a career.

Initial Training and Technical Assistance

There are a number of national organizations that offer training and technical assistance to high schools interested in implementing a Career Academy; however, there is no required training or technical assistance in order to start an Academy. There are many guides and resources available on-line to help school staff interested in starting an Academy as well as many national organizations offering technical assistance. Some of these include: The College & Career Academy Support Network (CCASN), The National Academy Foundation (NAF), and the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC). For information on other organizations offering technical assistance, see:

Curriculum and Materials

There is no single curriculum for Career Academies. The model requires academic courses connected to career and industry themes as well as career and technical education courses. There is a wide array of curricula available on-line. The College & Career Academy Support Network (CCASN) has an on-line database of curricula searchable by career/industry as well as academic subject area,



Other Start-Up Costs

Start-up of a Career Academy requires significant commitment and time from key administrators and teaching staff. The model requires: 1) a small learning community with a team of teachers working together to provide a supportive environment; 2) an integrated curriculum between academics and career-technical instruction; and 3) employer partnerships and involvement that allow students to have career experiences. Establishing a new Career Academy requires 8 months to 1 year of planning by an advisory board that includes industry partners from the career field, higher education representatives, teachers and administrators, community members, and parents.


Ratios: The Career Academy model is implemented as a way of structuring learning in high schools so the teacher to student ratio is determined by the school district. However, a core element of the model is that students are organized into smaller learning communities within high schools, and participation by students is voluntary. A single Career Academy cluster within a high school could have 30-60 students per grade who take Academy classes together and are taught by a team of teachers. (Variations of the model in terms of the size of the learning community are being piloted in the interest of reaching a greater scale of students; however in the evaluations that have shown positive outcomes, the sizes of the learning clusters in the Academy model were in the 30-60 student range.)

Qualifications: The teaching and administrator qualifications required by the system would also apply to the Career Academy.

Time to Deliver Intervention: The core curriculum is delivered as part of the regular school day for high school students. The model does require designation of a lead teacher and a lead administrator who need to dedicate time to coordinating the Academy. The lead teacher should be provided at least a teaching period for planning and/or be reimbursed for time spent outside of the regular school day. Teachers' schedules should be structured so they have ongoing team planning and curricula time built in.

Other Implementation Costs

Costs that will vary by locality include administrative support; the staff time dedicated to outreach to employers, organizing and supporting students in internships and other career experiences; and space and equipment.

Ongoing Training and Technical Assistance

Ongoing training and technical assistance can be obtained from many national organizations working to support quality implementation of Career Academies and costs are negotiated individually with consultants.

Fidelity Monitoring and Evaluation

There is no single required fidelity-monitoring tool. There are several sets of standards used in different settings. Perhaps the most widely applicable are those in the “Career Academy National Standards of Practice”, available on both the CCASN ( and National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC) websites ( NCAC has developed a set of rubrics for the standards of practice and will evaluate Academies for a fee. The National Academy Foundation ( also has such a set of standards for its 500 Academy National Network of Career Academies.

Ongoing License Fees


Year One Cost Example

In this example, one high school is implementing the Career Academy model with two cohorts including a total of 200 students. Costs are based on a study of costs from the California Multiple Pathways Program that includes Career Academy models (Ace Parsi, David Plank, and David Stern: Costs of California Multiple Pathway Programs. Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), University of California, Berkeley, 2010). These are estimates; actual costs will vary depending on the local model and costs.

Start-up ($297 per student)
Teacher and administrator planning time/coordination ($500 per student)

Total Year One Cost

With 200 students participating, estimated year one costs per student would be $797 in addition to regular per pupil spending in the high school. Once the program was beyond start-up costs, the per-student cost would be closer to $500 in addition to per pupil spending.