What Works Career Choices
Go with What Works: Career Choices & the 10-yearPlan

Successful Track Record in School Improvement



30 years of Changing Attitudes & Changing Lives!



Career Choices classroom, increasing test scores
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Kern Community College District
The Kern Community College District (Bakersfield, CA), which includes Bakersfield College, Cerro Coso College, and Porterville College, serves communities in parts of five separate California counties across a 24,800-square-mile area. In 2014, the goal for Kern Community College District was to have every high school student earn nine college credits by the time they obtained a diploma. Arvin High School
Arvin High School (Arvin, CA) is a comprehensive high school serving about 2,400 students from the rural Kern County communities of Arvin, Lamont, and Weedpatch. As principal of Arvin, Ed Watts’ goal was to be able to ask any student at any time, “What is your plan?” and to receive a thoughtful response. Wanting more for students than the traditional “choose your electives and fill out your schedule” conversations, Ed’s aim was to talk with students about what education can do for them in the real world. After introducing 10 unique CTE Pathways, Watts noticed that the historical challenge of building a robust CTE program remained the same––How do you get freshmen interested in their education enough to decide which direction to go? In 2015, Watts was introduced to the Career Choices series curriculum and Get Focused...Stay Focused!® program. After six years of implementing this program along with 44 dual enrollment sections in the master schedule, Arvin High School students know who they are, what they want, and how to get it. Even during the many challenges associated with Covid in the 2020–2021 school year, 15 graduating seniors will have enough college credit to leave high school with an AA degree from Bakersfield College.

Wheatland High School
After piloting a successful semester-long Career Choices/Get Focused...Stay Focused!® program during the 2018–2019 school year, Wheatland High School (Wheatland, CA) decided to implement a full-year course called Pirate Focus starting with the 2019–2020 year. Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic—while facing an array of daunting instructional, logistical, and emotional challenges—the students at Wheatland High were more engaged in discussions with their teachers and counselors regarding the self-guidance and self-advocacy they learned in Pirate Focus. Students were also more focused, as evidenced by the fact that the percentage of students who failed one or more classes required for graduation dropped a full point from the pilot year to the full implementation year.

Indio High School (Indio, California) was struggling with abysmal test scores. A freshman transition course using Career Choices called Success 101 is continuing to transform the culture of this largely Hispanic school. Rahway High School (Rahway, New Jersey) had an achievement problem and sought to remedy it with a Freshman Seminar/Financial Literacy course utilizing the Career Choices curriculum. Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara, California), home of a Dual Enrollment Freshman Transition (DEFT) course and the Get Focused...Stay Focused!® Initiative, was named co-winner of the prestigious 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. In 2009, SBCC adopted Career Choices and My10yearPlan.com® as the curriculum for their DEFT course, which sparked creation of the Get Focused...Stay Focused!® Initiative. These two innovative programs contributed to SBCC's position as one of the top community colleges in the country. The press release announcing the 2013 Aspen Prize states,
"Expanding student development efforts beyond its campus to local high schools, Santa Barbara City College has created the largest dual enrollment program-which allows high school students to take community college courses-among California's 112 community colleges. SBCC is also helping high sch ool students, many of whom may not be financially or academically prepared, develop long-term education plans through college readiness and career counseling programs."

Poughkeepsie High School (Poughkeepsie, New York) had been cited by the state as a consistently underachieving school, but a Career Choices course instituted in 2009 is showing promise.
  • The last cohort of students to graduate without Career Choices had a graduation rate of 59%.
  • The first graduating cohort to have the Career Choices class had a graduation rate of 63% (2011) and the second cohort achieved a graduation rate of 83% (2012).

McKay High School (Salem, Oregon) has seen major changes since the introduction of a Career Choices summer program for at-risk incoming freshmen in 2011. The summer program fosters relationships among students while providing the academic and study skills necessary to be successful in high school. McKay High School once had one of the highest dropout rates in Oregon, with 186 students dropping out (2002-03).
  • In 2011-12, only 3 students dropped out, making McKay's dropout rate the lowest in the state among schools with more than 750 students.

A rural district, Robeson County Public Schools (Lumberton, North Carolina) introduced a mandatory Freshman Transition program using Career Choices in all seven high schools to help curb a serious dropout problem.
  • A 23% decrease in the number of dropouts was observed between 2010 and 2011.

Carroll High School (Ozark, Alabama) introduced a Freshman Academy in 2011 to help freshmen make a successful transition into high school and build meaningful relationships. A key component of this academy was a Career Choices course. Compared with first-semester freshmen in 2010:
  • The number of students failing a class decreased by 50%.
  • The number of students who lost credit due to absences dropped by 35%.

Grace King High School (Metairie, Louisiana) took pride in being "the best" high school in their district, but Assistant Principal Pamela Pritchard was still appalled by the fact that only 76% of freshmen were being promoted to the 10th grade. She introduced the Career Choices curriculum and the concept that "Failure is Not an Option" as a part of the school's 9th grade redesign efforts.
  • The percentage of freshmen failing one or more classes dropped from 48.8% to 9% within one year.
  • The 9th grade dropout rate fell: 2.9% (2005-06) to 0.1% (2008-09).
  • The percentage of freshmen promoted to the 10th grade rose from 76% in 2005-06 to 91% within one year and to 93% within three, and suspension rates fell from 38.8% to 9.9% within one year and to 3.6% within three years.

When Bobby Cunningham started as principal of McCormick High School (McCormick, South Carolina), the school had one of the highest dropout rates in South Carolina. He chose to introduce Career Choices to all grades at once, and the results were staggering. "After one year, [McCormick High School] moved from a 'below average' school to one of two 'excellent' schools in South Carolina," Cunningham said. The results from the second year, shown below, were even more impressive:
  • The rate at which freshmen were retained fell from 10.8% in 2006 to 1.5% in 2008.
  • The percentage of students passing the High School Assessment Program (required for graduation in South Carolina) rose from 63.4% in 2006 to 78.6% in 2008.
  • The percentage of students enrolled in CATE classes jumped from 44.8% in 2006 to 67.3% in 2008.

High dropout rates, poor attendance, and low test scores prompted Silverado High School (Victorville, California) to implement small learning communities using the Career Choices curriculum.
  • A random sample group of 10th and 11th grade students who had been through the Freshman Academy increased their GPA by 69% from 2004-05 to 2007-08.
  • Suspension rates for freshmen dropped from around 65% in 2003-04 to around 10% in 2006-07.

Duval County Public School District (Jacksonville, Florida) mandated a Freshman Transition course be implemented with over 9,000 freshmen in 19 high schools as part of a district-wide freshman initiative during the 2006-07 school year. In a presentation to the American Youth Policy Forum, Director of High Schools for the district Beverly Strickland reported:
  • The 9th grade promotion rate went from 51% to 82% after the first year.

Tennessee implemented a statewide Freshman Transition Initiative entitled Career Management Success from 2002-04. The vast majority of school districts adopted Career Choices to meet this new requirement for career education.
  • Between 2002 and 2006, the state witnessed an 11.2 percentage point gain in high school graduation rates- greater than any increase of any other state during that period of time.

The Delaware School-To-Work Program used the Career Choices curriculum in a 24-day summer program.
  • Of the 25 students completing the School-To-Work program in 2000, 20 showed overall improvement in reading, math, and language mechanics.
  • Analysis of the T-Test results of student gains states, "While the 1999 program results were satisfactory, the year 2000 results are spectacular...These was only one replacement between 1999-2000. The utilization of the entire anthology of Career Choices by Academic Innovations..."

The Denver Summer Youth Employment and Training program used the Career Choices curriculum to provide academic enrichment services for 149 at-risk students. An independent evaluation of the 1996 program reported:
  • 83% of students and 84% of staff believed the program would help the students in school during the coming year.
  • 95% of students and 100% of staff believed the program would help students get a job.
  • 95% of students and 68% of staff believed the program would help students be more independent.
  • 90% of students and 74% of staff believed the program would help students become more responsible.
  • In addition, pre- and post-WRAT assessments (Wide Range Achievement Tests) showed significant gains in reading scores among seven of eight groups and in math scores for five of the eight groups. All other groups showed positive gains.

In an effort to address a very high dropout rate, Career Choices became the backbone of a required course for all freshmen at Coachella Valley High School (Thermal, California) in 1992.
  • Within one year, the dropout rate had fallen from 15.7% to 12.7%.
  • After the second year, the dropout rate fell to 3.8%.

Then-Coordinator of Delaware's Tech Prep Consortium Dr. Jim Campbell was looking to add a guidance component to the program when he discovered the Career Choices curriculum in 1991. Career Choices was subsequently introduced in six districts in Delaware. A few years later, he reported the following:
  • Dropout rate decreases.
    • Delaware Tech Prep students dropped out at rate of less than 1%, as compared to a statewide rate of 6%.
  • Math and language skill increased.
    • Tech Prep students in seven high schools earned higher math and language scores on Iowa Basic Skills than non-Tech Prep students statewide.
  • Successful enrollment in postsecondary schools.
    • Only 18% of students graduating from Tech Prep programs needed remediation, as compared to the overall rate of 70%.
    • ech Prep graduates had a much higher retention rate for community colleges: 92%, as compared to 40% for non-Tech Prep students.

The Havre Summer Youth Program (Havre, Montana) targeted students with academic deficiencies for a culturally relevant remedial course. Students were tested before and after program participation.
  • The majority of students improved their reading and math skills by two grade levels. The skills of about 10% of students went up six grade levels.

Boston Summer Youth Program (Boston, Massachusetts) sought to link learning to real life in an immediate, tangible way. It clearly succeeded.
  • All students increased their math and reading skill by a half to one whole grade level.

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