THE REVISIONS TO THE CARL D. PERKINS Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 require that career and technical education (CTE) programs provide students with a clear pathway from secondary to postsecondary education, and into high-wage, high-skill and high-demand careers. States nationwide arc developing programs, called career pathways, to provide students with a clear route beginning in middle school through to secondary education and beyond. Many states were on this track prior to this legislation, but the transformation has gained momentum and is taking shape across the nation.
Career pathways are structured sets of courses that build upon each other to develop academic and technical skills to move the student to the next phase of education. At the middle school level, the pathways tend to be more about general career exploration, life skills and study skills. As the student moves through the pathway, courses become more specific to the career area. Students are allowed some flexibility early in the process to change career pathways; however, as students move through a pathway it becomes more difficult to switch from one career path to another because the courses are built upon one another, and continue to become more complex as students progress.
Career pathways give a student the opportunity to visualize his or her future early in the educational journey, and to get the guidance needed to achieve desired goals. Students, parents, counselors, and sometimes teachers, are involved in the process of setting up a plan of study and altering that plan as needed throughout the student's educational career. Simply making the plan can help students and parents see that succeeding at each level is essential to the student's overall achievement. If necessary, remediation can be addressed at the early stages when it can be very beneficial. Setting long-term goals and understanding the entire process--from middle school through to postsecondary--helps students succeed.
Career pathways also allow educators to have a clear course curriculum with an end goal in mind. Each course is part of a systematic structure to move the students to the next level. Business and industry stakeholders are an essential part of the planning of the career pathways framework because they directly benefit from the students who are trained in these programs; the economy of an entire community can be altered by increasing the skills of those entering its workforce.
Implementation in Indiana
Across the country, there are various projects at various stages of implementation addressing career pathways. Some states are developing state-level models to be adopted at the local level, while others are providing guidelines for pathways and allowing local systems to develop their own pathways. Indiana has taken the first approach and is in the process of developing a state-level model to be implemented into local programs. In the developmental stages, Indiana looked at several other states' programs as well as the national model provided by the College and Career Transitions Initiative (CCTI). Officials adopted aspects from each model that they felt would best fit Indiana's needs.
The objective of the CCTI, administered by the League for Innovation in the Community College, was to develop career pathways with five major outcomes in mind: decrease the need for remediation at the postsecondary level; increase enrollment and persistence at the postsecondary level; increase academic and skill achievement at the secondary and postsecondary levels; increase attainment of postsecondary degrees, certificates or other recognized credentials and increase entry into employment or further education. The five-year CCTI project demonstrated that students involved in career pathways had lower remediation rates (math-39 percent, English-27 percent, reading-25 percent) than the national averages (math-68 percent, English-62 percent, reading-67 percent). …