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Office of College, Career and Technical Education

Massachusetts Definition of a Pathway

An intentional educational structure within a school system which includes a rigorous academic course of study, authentic contextual learning experiences, caring adults to provide guidance and advising; and social, emotional and learning supports designed to prepare students for college and career. To be considered a pathway, the structure should adhere to the five Guiding Principles adapted from the MA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Board of Higher Education principles for High Quality College and Career Pathways for Early College and Innovation Pathway designations as described below.

Massachusetts Pathway Guiding Principles

Pathways for college and career readiness and civic engagement are intentional educational structures within a school system that enable students to build agency, identify career interests, and understand the connection of academic learning and future success. These structures, grounded in equity, must ensure all students — and especially historically underrepresented student populations — complete a rigorous academic course of study, participate in authentic contextual learning experiences, engage with caring adults to provide guidance and advising, and have social, emotional and learning supports to ensure no student is left behind. All Pathways should provide a variety of experiences that better inform future career and life choices so students create post-secondary plans that are authentic, meaningful and attainable.

Guiding Principle 1: Equitable Access

All Pathway programs should be accessible to all students and therefore designed and created to ensure that historically underrepresented students are included. Evaluation of pathways should be based on the performance of these students. To facilitate this, programs should be structured to eliminate barriers and provide multiple entry points for students, along with a variety of student supports to prepare students for entry into and success throughout the program.

Guiding Principle 2: Guided Academic Pathways

Pathways should be structured around clear and detailed student academic pathways from secondary to post-secondary education with regard to coursework, sequencing, and experiences beyond the classroom. Programs should offer students opportunities to connect their learning with career opportunities allowing them to make an informed decision about which career pathway to pursue. Students may also be exposed to the authentic experience and academic rigor of postsecondary education, training or apprenticeship.

Guiding Principle 3: Enhanced Student Support

Pathways should identify potential academic and nonacademic challenges for all potential student participants and incorporate wraparound services to promote academic success and course completion, taking into consideration the needs of diverse populations of students.

Guiding Principle 4: Connection to Career

Pathways should expose students to a variety of career opportunities through a career development sequence — beginning with awareness activities and advancing into exploration and including immersion opportunities in their identified careers of interest. The connections may include targeted workforce and career skills development, career counseling, and elements of experiential and work-based learning.

Guiding Principle 5: Effective Partnerships

To offer authentic, real world exposure, schools should develop partnerships with one or more of the following: a workforce development (MassHire) board, a post-secondary education institution, a local chamber of commerce, and/or one or more employers in the local area.

Last Updated: August 5, 2022

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