From the Blog

Implementing Pathways in Your School Community: Ideas and Resources

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to extend students’ learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls, or, perhaps this pandemic has highlighted the need for learning to happen even when students are not physically present. Our current reality opens up both the possibility and the necessity of broadening our view of where and how students learn. Our soon-to-be released report (Creating Equitable Pathways to Ensure Civic Engagement and College and Career Readiness for All Students) describes the roles various stakeholders play in developing a meaningful, cohesive, integrated system of community-based learning. In her blog, Multiple Pathways: How Schools Ensure Doors to Opportunity Stay Open, Kate Gardoqui offers snapshots of how three schools have expanded learning opportunities for their students. If you would like to either initiate or refine programs in your school to enhance learning and increase ownership for your students, as well as strengthen school and community relationships, the following compilation of resources provides several entry points.

What does a pathways program look like in action?

Many schools have powerful programs that serve as components of pathways, but are not necessarily fully integrated and articulated in a cohesive way that’s clear to students, parents, and community partners. A publicly-accessible page on a district website can serve to not only communicate essential details about programs, but also help to coordinate planning.

Two schools in Maine have developed websites that describe their programs:

  1. Sumner Memorial High School – Alternative Pathways (Sullivan, Maine): This small rural school has been refining its pathways program for over ten years. Participation in the program reflects the demographics of the school (special education, socio-economic status, academic achievement, post-secondary aspirations) and boasts a 99% graduation rate; additionally, all participants leave with a clear post-secondary plan. One student reports, “If I hadn’t joined [the pathways program], I probably would have dropped out. Pathways gave me the flexible schedule I needed to work and the support I needed to be successful in my academics.”

What makes it work: 

    • Students apply to demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to the program; selections for participation represent the demographics of the school.
    • Students earn credits by demonstrating proficiency in both work-place readiness skills and school-based graduation standards.
    • Learning experiences are designed to be completed within a 6-10 week period (students typically engage in one morning and one afternoon intensive school or community-based learning experience per day).
    • Teachers work collaboratively with students to determine learning experiences that are realistic to schedule and also maintain the integrity of the standards.
  1. Nokomis Regional High: Extended Learning Opportunities (Newport, Maine): Nokomis has had a long-standing commitment to students’ career education development, through a coordinated four-year sequence of job shadowing, work experiences, and internships. Recent efforts funded by the Barr Foundation have allowed the school to enhance students’ learning opportunities by strengthening community partnerships and formalizing students’ processes for developing both workplace readiness and the transferable skills outlined in the school’s portrait of a graduate.

What makes it work: 

    • Full-time ELO coordinator supports students and community partners in making connections that enhance students’ learning.
    • Collaboratively-defined portrait of a graduate serves as the foundation of all extended learning opportunities.
    • Students demonstrate proficiency in workplace readiness and transferable skills.
    • Clearly-defined pathways and alignment with standards ensure complex and relevant learning.
What support might regional or state agencies offer?

The reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins funds in 2018 as the Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) has prompted many state educational agencies to work closely with state departments of labor and CTEs to enhance learning pathways for students that ensure readiness for post-secondary transitions into college enrollment and career pursuits. Here are a few regional and state initiatives that are highlighted in the report “Creating Equitable Pathways to Ensure Civic Engagement and College and Career Readiness for All Students”:

  • Boston Private Industry Council – A nonprofit organization that brings together employers, educators, and workforce organizations to help guide students toward careers and reconnect disconnected youth to education.
  • What Are Flexible Pathways for Learning? – A resource from the Connecticut Department of Education that describes flexible pathways, including a design guide.
  • Prepare Rhode Island – A initiative between the Rhode Island government, private industry leaders, the public education system, universities, and nonprofits across Rhode Island to prepare students for in-demand careers.
  • Vermont Agency of Education: Flexible Pathways – The landing page for Vermont’s flexible pathways resources, including a toolkit for establishing pathways and links to specific types of pathways, such as work-based and personalized learning.