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Self Assessment Guide for College & Career Academies

The original version of this guide was made possible by funding from the Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. It was revised and updated in 2014 with support from The James Irvine Foundation.

The criteria used to assess College & Career Academies in this guide were developed to reflect the National Standards of Practice for Career Academies. The most recent revision has incorporated recent best practices in the Career Academy movement, in particular the Linked Learning work on self assessment for continuous improvement, as represented by the ConnectEd OPTIC self assessment tool for Linked Learning pathways, based on the seven Essential Elements of High Quality Pathways in Linked Learning.

Charles Dayton
David Stern


Self-Assessment Guide
for College & Career Academies
Introduction and Purpose


Educators commit to working with College & Career Academies because, when implemented well, the highly effective practices in this model have been proven to significantly improve student success in school. Regular review of the set of practices incorporated into the College & Career Academy model is an essential part of the work of teacher teams, and informs action planning and program development. Such review of model components is complemented by data-based assessment and decision-making, for which we are providing an overview and suggestions in the companion piece, Analyzing Student Data.

The primary purpose of this Self Assessment Guide is to identify the Academy's relative strengths and weaknesses in order to initiate a process of reflection and improvement. Notes concerning each indicator can be included, such as what parts of the component are well implemented or need attention, and what needs to be done to improve. Comparisons can be made among the three sections and the components within each to see which features are strongest and weakest. This process is best done by a team, so teachers, administrators, and partners involved can explore options and define paths toward improvement.

The three sections in this Self Assessment Guide—Small Learning Communities, Curriculum and Instruction, and Partnerships with Employers, Community, and Higher Education—derive from the definition of Career Academies agreed to by the organizations working to support them nationally, the Career Academies National Standards of Practice, and are articulated with the Seven Essential Elements of High Quality Linked Learning Pathways. The requirements of California’s Partnership Academies are also considered. Linked Learning pathways in California can access ConnectEd’s OPTIC tool, which provides an online self-assessment that links directly to action planning tools and allows pathway leaders to upload evidence supporting their applications for certification.

To calculate a score, check the circle corresponding to the point value for each indicator and add the points. The top score possible is 100. If the Academy is not yet fully implemented, some of the items will be inapplicable (e.g., post-secondary plan, mentor/ internship/ community service programs), the scoring can be adjusted accordingly, and action plans that address those gaps can be developed strategically.

A second purpose for this Self Assessment Guide is to obtain an indication of how well the Academy stacks up against national and state criteria for quality implementation. In order to assess how completely a College & Career Academy is implemented in any given site, and to connect the degree of implementation with the amount of improvement in student performance, two kinds of information are needed. The first is information on the quality of implementation, for which the Self Assessment Guide is designed, to assess how well the College & Career academy features have been established. The second is data on student performance, the kind normally kept by schools and districts, which can give a picture of who is enrolled in academies, whether their course-taking experience is consistent with the academy model, and how their performance is affected as a result of their participation in the College & Career Academy.

To support this latter type of self-assessment, this guide also contains a second, brief section on Analyzing Student Data that includes suggestions for compiling and analyzing commonly available data for measuring Academy effectiveness. This data can answer three kinds of questions:

  • Demographics—Do Academy students represent a cross section of the school?
  • Program experience—Does student course taking reflect the Academy design, preparing students for both college and career?
  • Student outcomes—Are Academy students showing improved attendance, retention, credits, grades, test scores, graduation rates, and college entrance rates?

As explained in this section, these questions can be addressed by:

  • Comparing snapshots over time for an individual Academy
  • Analyzing year-to-year changes for individual students
  • Relating program characteristics to student performance

This overview does not provide in-depth information on how to conduct such data analysis. For more information on how to do this, contact CCASN through our website: