Peninsula Academies Replications
The Peninsula Academies are a three-year high school program for at-risk students, designed to provide them with incentives both to graduate and to acquire labor market-relevant skills. An Academy combines academic and technical training in a school-within-a-school setting. It is based on a school–business partnership and offers students access to guest speakers, career-oriented field trips, employee mentors, and work experience.
Since the fall of 1981, the Peninsula Academies have been operated by the Sequoia Union High School District in Redwood City, California. In fall 1985, ten replications of this program were begun under state sponsorship, with support stemming from AB3104. The new programs served approximately 500 students, mostly in Grade 10, in eight districts located throughout the state. This report provides a preliminary appraisal of these programs. Longer term evaluations of the model program itself are available from its evaluator, the American Institutes for Research in Palo Alto, California.
Academies are three-year programs, only the first year of which has been implemented to date. Host evaluators feel it is premature to judge the eventual impact of any program after just one year. Thus this report must be viewed as a preliminary assessment of these programs. It has two foci. The first is the quality of implementation of the programs in each of the sites. The second is evidence to date of measurable impact on students. At this stage, the first of these is probably more important, but as we gathered outcome data, even though they are imperfect as yet, they are presented here.
This evaluation was conducted through the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It is based on site visits and questionnaire responses from teachers and administrators in each site, as well as from a sample of parents and company representatives. It also rests on student data gathered from each of the high schools, including attendance, retention, credits earned, and grades, as well as a pre–post student questionnaire.
These data come from both the 1985–86 school year, the program's first operating year, and the preceding year, 1984–85, thereby reflecting changes in student performance. In six of the Academy sites, a comparison group of students matched to those in the Academy was tracked, providing a second type of contrast.
The Academy model is a complex one, specifying a school-within-a-school structure in the high school and a number of business activities stemming from the intended school–business partnership. There were two distinct variations from the Academy model, however. In one district, two Academies failed to provide the intended academic, school-within-a-school components. In another district, two Academies began with approximately 100 ninth graders, rather than the smaller number of tenth graders specified by the model. Overall, there were various components not yet fully realized in a number of the sites.