High Schools' Small Academies Lauded

Students enrolled in California Partnership Academies, a type of smaller learning community within larger high schools, are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and complete courses required to attend the University of California or California State University, says a report released by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

CPA academies in Long Beach include Poly High School's Pacific Rim Academy, along with Jordan High School's Aspirations in Medical Services Academy and its Architecture, Construction and Engineering Academy, or ACE.

The academies follow a multiyear program focused on rigorous academics along with career and technical skills.  California has about 500 of the academies.

“A Profile of the California Partnership Academies 2009-2010,” a review of test scores, attendance and graduation rates by the Career Academy Support Network at the University of California, Berkeley shows that 95 percent of seniors attending such academies go on to graduate, compared with 85 percent of students statewide.

The recent study also found that 57 percent of CPA graduates fulfilled the courses required for admission to UC or CSU systems, compared to 36 percent of graduates statewide.

African-American and Latino seniors graduated at significantly higher rates from CPAs.  The difference was 16 percent higher for African-Americans and 14 percent higher for Latinos.

Funded jointly by the California Department of Education and the James Irvine Foundation, the report shows that even though 50 percent of CPA students enter the program as “at-risk students,” they perform better than students at other California high schools.

Many CPAs are also part of the rapidly growing field of Linked Learning, an approach that provides students with strong academics connected to real world experience.

“This report shows that students succeed in high school when rigorous academics are linked with relevant career technical education and engagement with the world of adult work,” said Christopher Cabaldon, executive director of the Linked Learning Alliance.

With more than 200 CPAs set to lose funding at the close of the school year, supporters of the programs hope the successes outlined in the study help protect and expand CPAs, Linked Learning programs and similar college-and-career pathways in California.

“These results are encouraging and provide one more reason to address the financial emergency facing our schools by investing in education again,” Torlakson said.  “We must continue to fund these successful programs and think boldly about how we build on these successes.”

In addition to Long Beach’s CPA academies, four programs here have earned the rigorous Linked Learning certification, including the COMPASS and PEACE academies at Millikan High School; the ACE Academy at Jordan High School; and the California Academy of Mathematics and Science.

Read the full report at casn.berkeley.edu.