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IEE Brief No. 29, April 2003

Shaping Postsecondary Transitions: Influences of the National Academy Foundation Career Academy

Margaret Terry Orr, Katherine L. Hughes, and Melinda Mechur Karp


Career academies are a promising way to improve high school students' performance levels. Career academies use career planning and exposure to increase students' engagement in schooling while sharpening students' preparation for college and careers. The emphasis on academics through an integrated and contextualized curriculum can improve students' learning, while work-based learning and business involvement enrich and diversify students' high school experience. The career academy's partial school-within-a-school design creates a more intimate learning environment.

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 industry’s
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. This Brief summarizes a multi-method, multi-site evaluation of the National Academy Foundation career academy model.

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