Creating Strong Building Blocks for Every Student: How Middle Schools Can Lay the Foundation for Rigorous High School Pathways

This report by the Center for American Progress identifies critical components of middle school Career Technical Education (CTE) programs that can prepare young learners for rigorous high school pathways that will lead to success in college and careers. Those critical components are:

  1. Rigorous instructional coursework that ensures readiness and eligibility for high-quality high school programs;
  2. Counseling and exploration for career pathways and college preparation;
  3. Opportunities for teachers to connect with and learn from industry and postsecondary programs;
  4. Family engagement and frequent information on college and career pathways options; and
  5. Exposure to role models who deviate from cultural and occupational stereotypes.

The Center for American Progress also offers recommendations for federal, state and district policymakers to identify inequities and help middle school leaders adopt the critical elements identified in the report. Those recommendations are:

  1. Develop a strategy to prepare learners for college and career;
  2. Establish better data collection to understand student trends;
  3. Increase or at least retain funding for school counselors;
  4. Provide professional development for school leaders, teachers, counselors and staff;
  5. Engage early and regularly in family-school communications about opportunities to prepare students for college and careers;
  6. Make individualized academic and career plans a living document; and
  7. Undertake opportunities to blend funding from federal programs to support pathways in middle school.


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August 2020