Career Academies

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Feature small learning communities in low-income high schools, combining academic and technical or career curricula
  • Each Career Academy serves between 150 to 200 high school-aged students at a time
  • Aims to improve academic and career success by ensuring that the high school experience is rigorous and career-relevant
  • Offer workplace opportunities through partnerships with employers, often with curriculum organized around one occupation or industry

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)


Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, Social Programs That Work, the National Institute of Justice; the second-highest level of evidence by Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse

Target population

High school-aged children

Program cost

$3,800-$7,600 over 3-4 years

Implementation locations

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Increased grade point averages
  • Increased average annual earnings by 11% ($2,555 per year in 2017 dollars), sustained over 8 years after high school graduation
  • Gains concentrated among men (17% earnings increase); not effective for women
  • Increased the number of months employed, hours worked per week, and hourly wages one to four year years after graduation

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Access to funding from the school district and local, state, and federal government is essential for sustaining Career Academies.
  • Career Academies benefit from partnerships with local employers, employment agencies, mentoring groups, and local governments.
  • To ensure strong enrollment, outreach strategies should be culturally attuned to the makeup of local communities.
  • Additional supports should be provided to help students manage rigorous academic and skills training curriculum.

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