New Pathways to Careers and College: Examples, Evidence and Prospects

Across the nation, growing attention is focused on high-quality career pathways that link Career Technical Education (CTE), rigorous academic coursework and work-based experiences. This report from MDRC explores the history and design principles of high-quality career pathways and charts a path forward for strengthening and expanding local career pathways. Using a national scan of different career pathway models, the authors summarize their findings through the following design principles: 

  • Pathways keep students' options open
  • The choice of which pathway is up to the student (and parents)
  • Personal support for students
  • Integrated curriculum
  • Real applications
  • Employer partnerships and work-based learning
  • Collaboration between high schools and postsecondary education
  • District support
  • High standards, accountability systems and data-driven decision-making
  • Strong intermediaries to support programs

The report concludes with a strong call to action for employers, community members and educators to join forces and strengthen the quality of career pathways in their own communities. This is a critical resource for state and local leaders alike to identify the elements of high-quality CTE programs and develop strategies to enhance and expand the menu of options available to local learners.