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CareerStart is a schools and community capacity building strategy that attempts to positively influence the educational and workforce trajectory for all students, but especially those at higher risk for school failure. The objective of CareerStart is for teachers in middle school core courses (math, language arts, science and social studies) to provide illustrations or examples from real jobs and careers that help students see how the course content they are teaching is relevant and being used outside the classroom. Ultimatley, we expect CareerStart to enhance school engagement, improve school outcomes (e.g., academic achievement, behavior), and help prevent students from dropping out of school.

CareerStart is an experimental, longitudinal study of about 6,500 students conducted and rigorously evaluated through a series of randomized field trials. There are 14 middle schools in the evaluation, 7 of which were randomly assigned to implement CareerStart and 7 serving as control schools. The first cohort of 3,200 students began 6th grade in the fall, 2005 and the second cohort began 6th grade in the fall, 2006. Baseline survey data were collected from all students beginning in 6th grade in 2005 as well as from their teachers. Continuing survey and administrative continues to be collected.

So far, the findings from this evaluation confirm that the CareerStart approach of encouraging core teachers in middle schools to illustrate their teaching with examples from jobs and careers does benefit their students. When students hear more career related examples from more of their teachers, they are much more likely to be engaged in their school, have better connections to others at their school, see the value of their education for their future, and begin to think about and explore their own future connections to the kinds of jobs and careers that they may anticipate. All these benefits are statistically significant and occur even after controlling for other factors that can influence these outcomes, including normal changes in these outcomes over time.

Co-Principal Investigator:

Dennis K. Orthner, School of Social Work

Co-Principal Investigator:

Patrick Akos, School of Education

Funding Dates:

8/1/2004 - 6/30/2010

Funding Source(s):

U.S. Department of Justice, Winston-Salem Foundation, K.B. Reynolds Foundation, Wired Talent Development Grant, Piedmont Triad Partnership

State(s) Served:

North Carolina

N.C. Counties Served:

Asheboro City, Buncombe County, Madison County, Montgomery County, Orange County, Randolph County, Stokes County, Thomasville City, Winston-Salem/Forsyth