Graduate Follow-up Survey of the 1988 Graduates of the CA Partnership Academies
This paper presents findings from a follow-up survey of graduates of California's Partnership Academies. From the fall 1985 through the spring 1988, twelve Partnership Academy programs were operated in California under state sponsorship. Academies, which are directed at reducing dropouts among "at-risk" high school youth, combine a modified high school curriculum and structure with a number of specific elements: (1) a student selection process designed to enroll students with potential, but whose past performance indicates they are in danger of dropping out; (2) a school-within-a-school administrative structure, such that Academy students take three core academic subjects as a group in grades 10–12 with selected teachers; (3) along with the academic classes, participants in grades 10–12 take a technical course designed to provide them with basic job skills in a promising labor market field in their geographical area; (4) strong support from local businesses, including curriculum input, speakers, field trip sites, mentors, and work experience positions; and (5) both high school and district support for the program, providing the necessary teacher coordination time, facilities, equipment, curriculum development, and counseling support.
Academies represent three-way partnerships among the state, local school districts, and supporting companies. The state provides grants to districts with an Academy, which must be matched by direct or in-kind support by both the receiving district and local business community. Thus the funding mechanism is designed to encourage cooperation among school districts and the private sector. In addition, the state grant is based on a formula directly reflecting program performance; its size is determined by the number of program students who perform adequately in terms of attendance and earned credits each year. These structures in the funding mechanism for Academies encourage both school-business cooperation and a focus on student outcomes.
Eight of the twelve Academies operating from 1985 through 1988 were utilized in this survey of the June 1988 graduates. They include the two Peninsula Academies, which were in their seventh year of operation during the 1987 8 school year, and six of the replications begun in the fall of 1985 (all those that had graduates in June 1988). Two programs were terminated before this point, and two others operated on a cycle which resulted in the first class graduating in June 1989. Two of these were in the San Francisco Bay Area, three in or near Sacramento, and one in Bakersfield.
From November through February 1988–89, the graduates were contacted by telephone and interviewed. The interview was structured into sections pertaining to post graduate education, work, or military service, as well as perceptions about their high school and post-high school experiences. A comparison group of non-Academy students was interviewed as well.
One finding of the follow-up survey is that fewer Academy students dropped out of high school in their senior year than did comparison group students (3 percent versus 5 percent). While this difference is not statistically significant, it reflects a continuing discrepancy in dropout rates between the two groups that appears throughout the three year course of the Academy program.
The most common form of activity among graduates, in both the Academy and comparison group, is going to school, which about two-thirds do. Among those in school, most are in two year colleges, and half intend to earn a bachelor's degree. About three quarters of those in school are enrolled full-time. Somewhat more Academy than comparison graduates are enrolled in degree programs (77 percent versus 62 percent).
About two-thirds of the graduates from both groups are also working, on the average about 30 hours per week. While Academy graduates started after graduation with slightly higher wages, this difference had largely disappeared by the time of the survey, roughly six months later. Among those graduates who are both working and attending school (about two-thirds of those working), however, Academy graduates not only began with higher wages but increased this gap by the time of the survey.
Graduates of both groups report they are generally "fairly well" satisfied with both their high school preparation and achievements since graduation.
These survey results are tentative. A second, more extensive follow-up survey is planned of both June 1988 and June 1989 graduates during winter 1989–90. Nonetheless, results are notable given that the comparison group reflected in the survey is a relatively selective one compared to the Academy group.