The California Partnership Academies

Remembering the "Forgotten Half"
Charles Dayton
University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education
Marilyn Raby
California Partnership Academies
David Stern
University of California, Berkeley
Alan Weisberg
University of California, Berkeley


In recent years, we have re­peatedly been forced to confront a troubling picture of declining knowledge and skills among the young people of the U.S., particularly those who do not attend college. These youths, who come increasingly from the poor and minority populations, were christened the "forgotten half" in the 1988 report released by the William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Fami­ly, and Citizenship. The commission char­acterized the forgotten half as "the young people who build our homes, drive our buses, repair our automobiles, fix our tel­evisions, maintain and serve our offices, schools, and hospitals, and keep the pro­duction lines of our mills and factories moving. To a great extent, they deter­mine how well the American family, economy, and democracy function." In most U.S. schools these are the students who are placed in general or remedial tracks or enrolled in vocation­al courses. The public is increasingly critical of the education they receive. They are not taught good communica­tion, thinking, numerical, technical, or workplace skills and are leaving school unprepared to meet the demands of the marketplace.

The National Center on Education and the Economy recently analyzed these problems in a report titled America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages. The report argues convincingly that we must develop the higher-level skills of our high school students and reform our business­es to make use of these skills, or we will continue to lose ground to our interna­tional competitors. In particular, we must try to reclaim our high school youths who are currently dropping out or graduating with limited skills and no plans for fur­ther education, or we will all be con­demned to a lower standard of living.

Many factors are cited as contributing to the poor performance of our non­-college-bound students. Some fall into the category of societal changes, includ­ing the growing proportion of our young people who are from minority or immigrant populations or both and who too often do not value education or even speak English; a breakdown of the so­cial institutions that have traditionally supported young people and their fami­lies; and the changing nature of the la­bor market, with declines in manufactur­ing jobs and those requiring unskilled workers and increases in jobs requiring training beyond high school.

Other observers fault the present edu­cation system, citing such problems as grouping students by "ability," thereby reinforcing and exacerbating social and class stereotyping; the increasing size and impersonality of high schools, which result in student alienation; teachers' low academic and career expectations for non-college-bound students; uninspir­ing curricula that lack academic rigor and fail to provide the skills young people need after high school; narrow voca­tional training for jobs with little fu­ture; and lack of contact between high schools and the business communities they serve. Although this is by no means a complete list of the problems facing these students, it touches most of the ma­jor themes.

A program to address these concerns has been developing in California for the past 10 years and has been adopted by more than 50 high schools throughout the state. Known as the California Partner­ship Academies, it existed in embryonic form before many of these problems be­ came acute, and it has evolved into an ap­proach that meets a surprising number of today's challenges. The academies have met with consistent enthusiasm among the high schools and districts that have implemented them, and they have received strong support at the state level. Careful evaluations of the program sup­port this enthusiasm. A description of the program model and a summary of these evaluations are here in this article.

This article was originally published in the Phi Delta Kappen by Phi Delta Kappa International and Journal Storage (JSTOR).

Suggested citationDayton, C., Raby, M., Stern, D., & Weisberg, A. (1992, March). The California Partnership Academies: Remembering the "forgotten half" [Article]. Policy Analysis for California Education.