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 overview

  • 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

Evidence and impacts


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

  • 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

Best practices in 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.