Go with What Works: Career Choices & the 10-yearPlan
Successful Track Record in School Improvement
30 years of Changing Attitudes & Changing Lives!
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.
Between the 2013–2014 and 2019–2020 school years, there was a 68% growth rate in early college enrollment. The early college course with the highest enrollment during that time was Student Development, the course which housed the Get Focused...Stay Focused!® (GFSF) program and Career Choices series curriculum.
From Bakersfield College alone, there were 39,224 college credits given to Kern County high school students.
During the year the first cohort of 9th graders started a GFSF program, only 15% of graduating students were enrolling in Cal State, University of California, or community college systems. By the time that first cohort graduated four years later, the number jumped to 39%.
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.
The number of freshmen with 50% or more Fs decreased from 28.2% in 2009 to 12.3% in 2016.
Freshmen were responsible for 49 of the school's 65-point API (Academic Performance Index) increase within that first year.
By the time the first class of freshmen became sophomores, 70 students had joined the CSF (California Scholarship Federation) versus 10 students from the previous class.
The number of 9th graders who were absent all day went from 46.3% in 2008–09 to 17% in 2010–11, and the overall school attendance hit 96.21% in 2015–16.
The number of AP exams administered jumped from 246 in 2008 to 728 in 2016.
The graduation rate increased from 86.4% in 2008 to 96% in 2015.
The dropout rate decreased from 11.7% in 2008 to 2.9% in 2015.
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.
Within one year of implementation, the freshman failure rate dropped from 50% (2010-11) to 35% (2011-12).
Suspension rates for freshmen fell from 10% to 5%.
Rahway High School was recognized by
New Jersey Monthly magazine (August 2012) as one of the top 10 most improved
high schools in New Jersey.
Data related to this honor include:
improved Advanced Placement, HSPA, SAT, and ACT scores;
decreased failure rates; improved
conduct; and an overall school
setting built on an academic framework and supporting a college-
Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara, California),
a Dual Enrollment Freshman Transition (DEFT) course
Get Focused...Stay Focused!® Initiative, was
named co-winner of the prestigious
2013 Aspen Prize for
Community College Excellence. In 2009, SBCC adopted
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
"Expanding student development efforts beyond its
campus to local high schools, Santa Barbara City College
has created the largest dual
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."
Thanks to SBCC,
development of a 10-year career and
education plan is now a high school graduation
requirement for all students in the Santa Barbara Unified
Participants in the Dual Enrollment Freshman Transition program
have higher aspirations, better attendance, and fewer behavior
problems than did students before implementation of DEFT.
Poughkeepsie High School (Poughkeepsie, New York)
cited by the state as a consistently underachieving
school, but a
Career Choices course instituted in 2009 is
The last cohort of students to graduate without
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,
dropout rate the lowest in the state among schools with more
than 750 students.
A rural district,
Robeson County Public Schools (Lumberton,
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
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.
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
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
The 9th grade promotion rate went from 51% to 82% after the
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.
Of the 25 students completing the School-To-Work program in
2000, 20 showed overall improvement in reading, math, and
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
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
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
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
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
Havre Summer Youth Program (Havre, Montana)
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.