The Latest Chapter in the State’s Efforts to Integrate College and Career Readiness
In recent years, the Commonwealth has been engaged in a high level, ambitious effort to increase the college and career readiness of many more of its students. Under the guidance of the Workforce Skills Cabinet, and with the active involvement of the Office for College, Career and Technical Education of the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education(ESE), the state has recently opened a new chapter in this work, by launching an initiative to scale up “High Quality College and Career Pathways” (HQCCPs) across the state. The goals are two-fold: to support better long term outcomes for our students; and to address the needs of employers and the workforce, especially related to existing “skill gaps” where employers cannot find qualified applicants for current and upcoming openings.
A significant driver of the HQCCP work is the grant funding the state received from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) through its “New Skills for Youth” (NSFY) project. Massachusetts is proud to be one of ten states awarded implementation funding last January, having been among 24 states (plus D.C.) that received related planning grants in spring 2016. This national project is designed to scale up access to career pathways around the country. In Massachusetts, the NSFY effort is multi-faceted, and has been designed to significantly increase the number of HQCCP(s) that are available here to students. The NSFY work is well underway and will continue through 2019. Here are some highlights of this major initiative:
- Designation. A new “Designation” process was launched this summer to enable districts to obtain a formal designation for two new kinds of HQCCPs, namely Early College programs and Innovation Pathways. This designation process is intended to help significantly expand student access to these HQCCPs, which are focused on high skill/high demand industry sectors in Massachusetts.
- Both of these types of pathways are governed by five guiding principles: equitable access, guided academic pathways, enhanced student support, connection to career, and effective partnerships. These five principles were first defined in the context of the state’s early college work, and details about how they were developed can be read at the ESE website here: Massachusetts Early College Designation – Preliminary Outline of Key Elements. Since that work, these principles have also been applied to Innovation Pathways.
- Both types of pathways must have a well-develop structure that integrates six minimum characteristics: 1) career advising, 2) work-based learning, 3) integration of academic and technical instruction, 4) secondary-postsecondary linkages, 5) credential attainment, and 6) alignment with the labor market. To learn more about Innovation Pathways, review this overview about Innovation Pathway Criteria . To learn more about Early College programs, review this overview: Early College Criteria
- Data collection. ESE is improving its data collection methods so that student participation in these activities can be tracked, analyzed, and measured. Well-known to state leaders is the adage, “that which gets measured gets done.”
- Career Advising. With NSFY funding, ESE is also creating a significant new training program about career advising, in partnership with the MA Association of School Counselors, for counselors and other educators. The improved approach to career advising will support the new career pathways that are designated as HQCCPs, and more generally could be offered at any high school, whether it has HQCCPs or not. The program will support the design and implementation of student-centered and individualized college and career planning processes. The envisioned training program will be launched in FY19.
This post was produced by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, a collaborative partner of Future Ready Massachusetts.