What is a Career Academy?

Career Academies (CA) are small learning communities within a high school based on a career pathway theme (e.g., healthcare, manufacturing, criminal justice/law enforcement, finance). CAs are designed in partnership with educators and local/ regional employers. The goal of a Career Academy is to ensure college and career readiness while equipping students with the skills needed by employers in the area.

There are an estimated 8,000+ high schools across the U.S. that have Career Academies, and more are added each year.


Why do career academies require a rigorous evaluation strategy?

Most funding sources for Career Academies include a requirement that the program undergo regular evaluation. The purpose of evaluation is to drive smarter, more informed decision-making. Per President Obama’s recommendation, there is now a preference for high-quality evaluations with rapid, iterative experimentation that deliver data-driven results. Another requirement is to feed the evidence-based data back into the system for stronger socialization. The purpose is to apply evidence about what works, to generate new knowledge, and to use experimentation and innovation to rapidly test new approaches.

Data-driven evaluation findings are often used to make decisions about:

  • Program fidelity, program design improvement, expansions, and sustainability
  • Program effectiveness and efficiency
  • Guiding cost-containment strategies
  • Facilitating program replication
  • Determining the program’s impact on short-, mid- and long-term outcomes
  • Informing local, state, and federal legislation