New High-Quality Criteria for College and Career Pathways Released for Public Comment

College and career pathways are scaling nationwide as a critical postsecondary and career readiness strategy. In Illinois, College and Career Pathway Endorsements were established through the 2016 Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act and have significantly scaled statewide in recent years, with more than 200 high school districts in various levels of implementation and more than 1,000 high school graduates earning an endorsement in 2023. 

In implementing the endorsement system, communities have utilized innovative practices in pathways and work-based learning that go beyond the baseline authorization requirements. Once a pathway system is established, communities are working to enhance and refine their efforts with an eye toward continuous improvement and equity.

EdSystems saw an opportunity to curate these practices to support communities seeking to enhance their college and career pathway efforts. With generous support from the Walton Family Foundation, EdSystems convened a representative advisory committee of diverse leaders across secondary and postsecondary education and the workforce beginning in fall 2023 to explore research into best practices, discuss how to articulate quality criteria for the component parts of college and career pathway implementation, and elevate innovative local practices from across Illinois. The resulting quality criteria are now open for public comment. We invite your feedback to ensure these resources are as supportive as possible for the field.

Framework Components & Criteria Subcomponents

The quality criteria for college and career pathways are organized across six thematic components, each containing two to three subcomponents that categorize the quality criteria. The thematic areas also align with the components outlined in the CTE Program Approval: Size, Scope, and Quality section of the Illinois State Plan for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V).

The six framework components cover the breadth of pathways development and implementation. They are:

  1. Development & Engagement
  2. Recruitment & Access
  3. Instructional Sequence
  4. Academic Instruction & Supports
  5. Instructors
  6. Employer-Informed Competencies & Skills

The quality criteria are organized along a continuum of practice that begins with the baseline requirements to implement college and career pathways in high schools and articulates practices that will deepen the quality and equity in implementation. 

Implementing Refining Advancing
Required or aligned to support College and Career Pathway Endorsements authorization 
Processes for regular revision and equitable improvement
Model practices
These practices include both the components that ISBE requires and assesses in authorizing College and Career Pathway Endorsements for districts as well as core baseline enabling factors to support implementation of pathways.
In addition to the implementing criteria, these practices help practitioners enhance and deepen their implementation.
In addition to implementing and refining criteria, these practices will guide practitioners to continue building their pathways as they grow in implementation capacity and skills.

Public Comment Open Until May 27

We would like to hear from you! We encourage you to download the criteria and complete the survey to share your public comments. Consider how this resource can be useful for you in your role and what additional exemplary practices we can highlight. For example:

  • As a secondary administrator, consider how these criteria and resources might help you utilize student voice to inform the development and continuous improvement of your pathways.
  • As a practitioner, consider how these criteria and resources might inform curriculum development processes and instructional practice.
  • As an employer, consider how these criteria and resources might help your secondary partners approach you with requests for support.

In addition to the continuum of criteria described above, the tables include equitable practices and continuous improvement strategies for practitioners to implement regardless of where they find themselves in the continuum of practice.

  • Equitable practices: For each criteria subcomponent (e.g., “Alignment with Industry Standards” or “Individualized Planning”), equitable practices highlight thoughtful approaches to preventing access and outcomes disparities across different groups of students. 
  • Continuous improvement: For each framework component (e.g., “Development & Engagement” or “Instructional Sequence”), the table includes a set of specific continuous improvement practices that promote thoughtful utilization of both quantitative and qualitative data to drive programmatic decision-making.

The deadline to provide public comment is May 27, 2024. 

The work-based learning quality criteria are designed to work in companion with the new work-based learning quality criteria, also currently available for public comment.

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