“Developing Viable Career Pathways within Middle & High School Programs” means that schools and districts need to outline clear pathways for students to achieve postsecondary success.

This includes exposure to opportunities in the surrounding community and beyond, and college and postsecondary training options. Developing viable career pathways means coordinating and/or aligning school-, district-, and state-wide efforts.

It is increasingly becoming necessary for a student to have not only a high school diploma, but also some form of postsecondary training in order to obtain a job that is able to support themselves and/or a family.   

(Click the above image for a PDF version of the resources on this page)


  • Objectively evaluate the current situation in your school or district. If student enrollment in “academic” or college prep courses vs. technical ones shows de facto sorting based on race or socioeconomic class, there is work to be done. An evaluation of current outcomes will provide concrete data, but a walk through your building will probably give you a pretty good idea to start.
  • At middle school and early high school level, provide challenging content to all students in heterogeneous groups, eliminating academic tracking.
  • Offer extra-help support classes to enable less well-prepared students succeed in accelerated courses. See How to provide academic supports for postsecondary readiness.
  • Improve communication with parents as well as students about academic options available and their potential benefits for their children’s future. Use accessible language and vocabulary and consider use of appropriate technology (e.g., voice or text messages sent to cell phones rather than email or take-home paper information).
  • Consider using multiple measures of academic performance and preparedness to improve educational equity, rather than relying solely or primarily on standardized tests and class grades.At state or district level, offer simple, transparent mechanisms to provide financial assistance for all students to access programs that boost academic preparedness, such as summer enrichment camps or courses and AP or dual enrollment opportunities.


CTE on the Frontier: Catalyzing Local Efforts to Improve Program Quality
Advance CTE
August 2017
This article examines state strategies to improve the quality of local CTE programs to meet industry needs and expand opportunities for rural students. Specific examples include Nebraska, South Dakota, Idaho and Mississippi to demonstrate different approaches state leaders can take to empower local leaders.

Designing a Career Pathways System: A Framework for State Education Agencies
College & Career Readiness & Success Center at American Institutes for Research
The Career and College Readiness and Success Center has created a website that outlines frameworks for state education agencies. The 4 key areas include:

  • Engaging Key Stakeholders and Defining Goals
  • Mapping Policies, Programs, and Industries
  • Designing a Framework
  • Implementation and Continuous Improvement

Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education and Registered Apprenticeship: A Profile of Six State Systems
DOE: National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education
July 2016

This report profiles six states — Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington — and reviews the programmatic, administrative, and financial policies around career and technical education (CTE) and registered apprenticeships (RA). The entire study was focused on answering the following questions: What are the program features that define states’ efforts to align secondary CTE programs with RA, and What program supports exist at the state and local levels to promotion system coordination between secondary CTE and RA programs.

New Pathways to Careers and College: Examples, Evidence, and Prospects
April 2015

This report describes sample “pathway” models, identifies localities where the approach has gained the most traction, discusses the underlying principles that characterize the most promising  programs, and briefly presents the evidence of their potential to make a difference. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for future investment to strengthen and scale such programs.

Gov. Hickenlooper Announces $9.5 Million to Launch Statewide Youth Apprenticeship and Career Readiness Programs
Career Wise Colorado
September 2016

This article highlights how Bloomberg Philanthropies anad JPMorgan Chase & Co. partnered with the state of Colorado to fund the development of a pilot program to develop high-demand skills for careers and opportunities in Colorado’s leading industries.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Statistics
National Center for Education Statistics
This website provides national statistics on CTE and work preparation, from high school to adult and postsecondary.

Career Development Education: Activities Guide and Glossary
Massachusetts Department of Education
The Massachusetts Career Development Education (CDE) consists of well-designed state and district strategies for teaching and learning that enable a student to prepare for a successful future in an economically viable career.

PSI High: Design Your Personal Learning Plan
Seminole Co. Public Schools
April 2018

PSI High is an immersive, full-time program located within Seminole High School where students work in an environment that looks like a high-tech office instead of a classroom. Rather than learn through traditional instruction, students join teams with their peers and teachers to solve real community, business, and social problems.

Carl Wunsche Sr. High School
Spring ISD
The Carl Wunsche High School is a career academy for students in grades 10-12, focusing on professional, technology, and medical career and college preparation.

Building America’s Skilled Technical Workforce
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

The findings and recommendations presented in this publication are designed to help overcome some of the barriers identified within the current framework of federal governance, state implementation, and market incentives. The book recommends specific actions by Congress, federal agencies, state governments, employers, and civic organizations to improve the American system of workforce development.


  • Preventing Dropout in Secondary Schools
    What Works Clearinghouse
    Sept 2017
    This guide is geared for school and district administrators, as well as members of student support teams. It includes a wide range of activities and best practices that can can be adapted to fit a school’s or district’s needs. Highlighted things include: monitoring and being proactive in a students progress, individualized support, connecting schoolwork with colleges and careers, and creating small personalized communities.
  • Work-based Learning Tool Kit
    The Work-based Learning Tool Kit will provide state and local program administrators with information regarding the key components of work-based learning (WBL), an instructional strategy that enhances classroom learning by connecting it to the workplace. It offers guidelines and resources related to creating a state WBL strategy, engaging employers, collecting data, and scaling effective programs.