Making It Happen: How Career Academies Can Build College and Career Exploration Programs

Career academies – small schools within schools that are organized by a career theme – are well positioned to equip learners with 21st Century skills. The Exploring Career and College Options (ECCO) program, which was developed and piloted by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, MDRC and Bloom Associates, was designed to help career academies strengthen and expand career exploration activities. ECCO utilizes a model that includes a series of classroom-based lessons, visits to local worksites and college campuses and a six-week internship. 

This report from MDRC summarizes a three-year evaluation of the ECCO program as implemented across 18 sites in California, Florida and Georgia. The report finds that the ECCO model increased the capacity for career academies to provide career exploration activities and increased the number of students participating in internships. These findings, and MDRC's implementation recommendations, provide actionable strategies for policymakers looking to develop new or strengthen existing career academies. 

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January 2013