Cost-Benefit Analysis of California Partnership Academies

On Friday, December 9th, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) hosted a seminar Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students: What Does it Cost? During the seminar, University of California –Berkeley professor David Stern presented findings from two related studies. The first part of the presentation included an analysis of the California Partnership Academies (CPAs) annual reports for 2004-05 and 2009-10. The second included a summary of findings from an earlier analysis of Linked Learning that was conducted on behalf of the James Irvine Foundation completed in 2007.  Dr. Stern was joined by recently retired Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Edwin Diaz, who shared anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of CPAs in restructuring an under-performing high school in Pasadena. Both encouraged lawmakers in California to continue to fund efforts such as the CPAs and Linked Learning as cost-effective strategies for engaging high school students in rigorous academic content that is explicitly connected to students’ career aspirations.

CPAs were launched by state legislation enacted in 1984 and combine a number of high school reform strategies that research suggests[1] are effective. Students are grouped together as cohorts and take a number of related classes together. Curriculum is designed to draw connections across traditionally separate disciplines. Courses are designed around one of 15 industries established for Career Technical Education in California, which allow instructors to make connections between academic content and careers. Many CPAs include work experience, internships or job shadowing as part of the student experience and nearly all include some meaningful collaboration with local employers as members of advisory boards, speakers, field trips, mentors and collaborators in course development.  

Legislation requires that CPAs receive support from three sources: state grants, financial or in-kind support from the LEA, and financial or in-kind support from local employers.  Funding was most recently reauthorized by the state in 2010, despite shrinking state budget resources.  On average, CPAs received 23% of their funding from state grants, 35% in district support (mostly in-kind), and 42% from employer contributions (also primarily in-kind support). 

Dr. Stern presented findings that included a comparison of two different cost-benefit analyses: one using 2004-05 data and one using 2009-10 data.  According to the findings from both analyses, students who participate in CPAs have better attendance rates, pass the California High School Exit exam at higher rates than the state average and have higher rates of seniors who graduate than the state average.

Linked Learning (formerly Multiple Pathways) is a strategy that builds on evaluations of career academies which found that that combining academic and career-technical coursework in a small-school setting, with work-based learning related to classroom instruction, can produce positive outcomes for students during and after high school. Dr. Stern presented a cost-benefit analysis[2] that was completed for the James Irvine Foundation which pointed to the long-term economic benefits of investing in a Linked Learning approach. Since then the Irvine Foundation has funded an initial cohort of districts implementing Linked Learning which will serve as a model for statewide implementation. 

The seminar may be accessed via:

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.


[1] See for example: Kemple, J.J. (2008).  Career academies: Long-term impacts on labor market outcomes, educational attainment, and transitions to adulthood.  New York: MDRC and Stern, D. Dayton, C & Raby, M. (2010). Career academies: A proven strategy to prepare high school students for college and careers.  Berkeley, CA: Career Academy Support Network (Graduate School of Education, University of California).

[2] Costs of California Multiple Pathway Programs. Berkeley, CA: Policy Analysis for California Education, University of California, 2010. (A. Parsi, D. Plank, and D. Stern)



Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
4 + 14 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.