Students who cannot connect their learning in school with their career aspirations are at higher risk of disengaging academically and socially, and disengagement and boredom are harbingers of dropping out of high school altogether. Particularly in more urban, economically disadvantaged communities, there still are many traditional, comprehensive schools that are labeled “dropout factories” because more than half their students stop attending and fail to graduate. In many of these urban settings, career academies have emerged as a prominent reform to increase student engagement.

Embedded in high schools across the nation, career academies are situated in a variety of settings, including comprehensive and magnet schools as well as career centers. An estimated 8,000-plus are in existence, serving over one million students.

Initially formed to keep students from dropping out by preparing them to enter the workforce right out of high school, career academies have now extended their mission to preparing students to be both college and career ready. The academies’ goal is to enhance students’ engagement in school and improve their performance while exposing them to postsecondary education and work options.

Reengaging High School Students through Career Academies

Also In this Issue

Getting Students Engaged in Learning

By Jennifer A. Fredricks

Targeted interventions and savvy classroom practices, coupled with supportive state policy, can draw disengaged students back in.

Centering School Connectedness

By Robert Balfanz

High schools are creating student success teams that prioritize relationships and leverage actionable data to reconnect students to school.

Chronic Absence: A Call for Deeper Student and Family Engagement

By Hedy Chang

Connecticut's experience underscores the value of a positive, systemic approach to improving attendance.

Understanding Who Is Missing and Why

By Hailly T.N. Korman

The pandemic only magnified chronic absence among students with the greatest needs and made the problem harder to ignore.

How State Leaders Can Stand Up for the COVID Generation of High Schoolers

By Robin Lake and Travis Pillow

Families need better data on students' academic progress; students need meaningful learning experiences and better information on postsecondary options.

Reengaging High School Students through Career Academies

By Edward C. Fletcher Jr.

When built around four key elements, academies deliver rigorous, relevant learning tied to students' career aspirations.

Trauma-Informed Practices: A Whole-School Policy Framework

By Janet VanLone and Nicole Reddig

State leaders can ensure that more school staff are equipped to help children deal with the effects of trauma.

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