You are here
Building Better Bridges to Life After High School: Experimental Evidence on Contemporary Career Academies
Modern career academies aim to prepare students for college and the labor market. This paper examines the profile of students entering such academies in one school district and estimates causal effects of participation in one of the district’s well-regarded academies on a range of high school and college outcomes. Using rich administrative data from the Wake County Public School System, we find that students who enter contemporary career academies are generally higher performing than their non-academy peers. Further, we document that Hispanic students and those with limited English proficiency are somewhat less likely to enroll than other students, even after we control for differences in prior academic achievement and high school choice sets. Exploiting the lottery-based admissions process of one technology-focused academy, we then estimate causal effects of participation in a career academy on high school attendance, achievement, and graduation, as well as college-going. We find that enrollment in this academy increases the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment each by about 8 percentage points, with the attainment gains concentrated among male students. We also find that academy participation reduces 9th grade absences but has little influence on academic performance, AP course-taking, or AP exam success during high school. Analysis of candidate mechanisms suggests that roughly one fifth of the overall high school graduation effect can be attributed to improved student engagement in high school.
Keywords: Career, Hispanic, Labor Market
Citation: Steven Hemelt, Matthew Lenard, Colleen Paeplow (2017). Building Better Bridges to Life After High School: Experimental Evidence on Contemporary Career Academies. CALDER Working Paper No. 176.