Teachers College, Columbia University

New Report Looks at Promising State Policies to Help Students Move Easily From High School to Other Educational Opportunities

NEW YORK, NY (May 1, 2006) — A new report, Strengthening Transitions by Encouraging Career Pathways: A Look at State Policies and Practices, from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, looks at state policies that promote students’ seamless transition from high school to postsecondary education and rewarding careers. The report comes at a time when a national consensus supports the need to provide all youth with education, whether through college or other coursework, beyond high school in order to ensure their economic self-sufficiency.

“Many states now recognize the economic importance of making sure that students aren’t discouraged from furthering their education because they didn’t take the right classes in high school or can’t transfer credits between colleges,” said Katherine Hughes, a co-author of the report and the Assistant Director for Work and Education Reform Research at CCRC and the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE), Teachers College, Columbia University. “This study identifies the states that are taking promising steps towards helping students succeed in transitioning to whatever education they choose to pursue. No state does this perfectly, but some can certainly serve as examples for others.”

The study provides examples of ways that states are encouraging connections among high schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities and the labor market in order to benefit career and technical education (CTE) students. Such “career pathway” policies can encompass offering high school students guidance and advice on careers, aligning college and high school curricula and facilitating the transfer of credits between 2-and 4-year colleges, among other activities.

A few of the states featured in the report include:

  • Florida: The state has led the way in creating a K-20 system, with all education levels governed by one state department of education and a single education commissioner. High school students with a grade point average of 2.0 or higher can enroll in college technical courses which lead to certificates. Those maintaining a 3.0 grade point average can take college academic courses. A statewide course numbering system among 2- and 4-year colleges enables students to transfer to other institutions that participate in the numbering system and offer courses with the same numbers.
  • Washington: New high school graduation requirements include a High School and Beyond Plan, in which students must outline how they will meet graduation requirements and their plans for their first year out of high school. Washington has also funded projects that tie basic skills instruction to credit-bearing occupational programs. The state’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training projects pair English as a second language or adult basic education instructors with occupational program instructors in the classroom to concurrently advance students’ gains in literacy and technical skills.
  • Iowa: Students in Iowa attend career academies in which they engage in a course of study that begins in high school and culminates in a postsecondary credential. The career academies typically include technically oriented dual enrollment courses and work-based learning experiences. The state’s Accelerated Career Education program provides funds for the creation or expansion of associate degree programs leading to high-wage employment.

While many states are making progress towards establishing career pathways, the report identifies challenges that remain in several areas, such as the continued division between academic and career-technical education and the absence of policies that reward employers for playing a meaningful role in connecting students to the labor market.

“Given the importance of making sure that students are well-trained for an evolving workforce, it is critical for states to work more closely with employers to ensure that students succeed through education,” said Hughes.

The report was written and published in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges and the League for Innovation in the Community College, and supported under the College and Career Transitions Initiative as administered by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education.