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Most of the nation's 1,500 career academies are all-day schools that focus on one area of study. In a typical medical academy, students would fulfill all of their core academic work at the academy, but it would be tailored to their areas of specialization. In a comprehensive long-term study of these academies, the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp. recently found that the programs were especially beneficial to underperforming students. One key benefit was reducing the dropout rate.
Whittman describes half of the Chantilly Academy's students as "at risk." He doesn't mean that they have grown up amid poverty and violence but rather that they, like Matt Grohnke, were not previously interested in their high school work and weren't headed for college or a career. But at the academy, says Grohnke, "you're doing something you love. Then you get a good feeling by getting a good grade, and then you want that feeling everywhere, in all your other classes."