The U.S. Conference of Mayors


WHEREAS, sweeping changes are posing new challenges to the upward mobility of workers into the middle class, as well as to American prosperity more generally; and

WHEREAS, more that 37 million people in the U.S. are officially poor today despite the fact that one-half of poor families are now working; and

WHEREAS, to successfully boost economic opportunity and grow the middle class, the U.S. must broaden investments in poverty policy from their focus on helping yesterday's workers to boosting the prospects of more of tomorrow's workers; and

WHEREAS, this approach gives lower income Americans the tools to help themselves, positions the government to achieve long-term savings as the need for today's poverty-related programs declines, and - most importantly - takes advantage of some of the key opportunities to reduce poverty that have been created by the sweeping changes of our time; and

WHEREAS, today, more than 45 percent of public school students tested in kindergarten and middle school fail to achieve age-appropriate proficiency in reading and mathematics, and only 35 percent of our urban middle school students achieve proficiency in math; and

WHEREAS, lower income children consistently perform worse in achievement tests in both reading and mathematics than higher income children, and they make up a disproportionately large share of those who drop out, doing so at twice the overall rate; and

WHEREAS, only one-half of lower income children even begin college, compared with more than 75 percent of higher income children; and

WHEREAS, the more success a child achieves in school, the less likely he or she is to live in poverty as an adult, and the poverty rate of high school dropouts is three times that of those who graduate; and

WHEREAS, one of every four American children drops out of high school before graduating, and the Council of the Great City Schools reports that in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, fewer than one-half of entering ninth graders graduate high school within four years; and

WHEREAS, this adds up to millions of young Americans who reach adulthood with dramatically lower chances for economic success, as the overwhelming majority of those who drop out spend much of their lives on the margins of the economy; and

WHEREAS, mainstream high school education, with its focus on college preparation, does not speak to the aspirations or plans of millions of students; and

WHEREAS, the school-wide career academies model for K-12 education, by contrast, does address some of these goals by placing greater focus on preparation for jobs and careers, emphasizing career exploration through vocationally oriented instruction in fields ranging from graphic design and information technology to healthcare and teaching; and

WHEREAS, career academies typically serve between 150 and 200 high school students, combining traditional curricula with career-oriented training that is designed to better prepare students to move into the labor force; and

WHEREAS, high-performing career academies maintain partnerships with regional employers both to make students aware of their career options and provide work-based internships and other learning opportunities; and

WHEREAS, research indicates that students - especially young men - who matriculate through a career academy fare better after high school than those of similar circumstances who do not; and

WHEREAS, one recent study found that earnings for participants were higher by an average of $212 per month than for youth who did not participate, an 18 percent difference in annual compensation; and

WHEREAS, the benefits of the career academy approach go beyond earnings; and

WHEREAS, program participants have shown higher rates of both high school completion and postsecondary enrollment than the national average; and

WHEREAS, employers also realize value by helping to inform the school curricula in their communities, better preparing the next generation of workers for jobs in their businesses; and

WHEREAS, current socio-economic trends are creating opportunities for career-track work that pays family-supporting wages but does not require a four-year college degree; and

WHEREAS, private as well as public sector employers are willing and able to train and then hire youth for career opportunities in work that offers family-supporting wages; and

WHEREAS, The United States Conference of Mayors has previously adopted resolutions which call for the creation of, and investment in, career academies and similar educational models,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors urges federal, state and local governments to work together with private sector stakeholders to invest in expanding access to career exploration and preparation through career academies and other strategies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Conference of Mayors believes that schools should conform to well-tested standards of practice, and establish clear guidelines for evaluation of program effectiveness, including benchmarks for college and career success and student achievement.

2007 The U.S. Conference of Mayors
Tom Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. 202.293.7330 ~ Fax 202.293.2352