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The Pathways Resource Center (PRC) focuses on enhancing and strengthening pathways to college and career success for all students by providing resources, research, and support to P-20 education partners. In conjunction with Race to the Top partners across the state of Illinois, PRC provides resource materials and coaching support for school districts implementing programs of study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. PRC’s work builds on and contributes to the growing body of work OCCRL has developed around career pathways and programs of study. Supports provided by PRC include webinars, templates, toolkits, and conferences, in which PRC personnel disseminate current research and resources and prompt high quality programs of study and equitable outcomes for students.

Mission and Goals

The mission of the PRC is to provide resources and supports to secondary and postsecondary institutions, employers, communities, and other partners as they engage in successful and sustainable pathways for students from secondary, to postsecondary, to careers.  The PRC serves as a centralized resource for their diverse partners and seeks to:

  • improve equitable outcomes for all students throughout the P-20 education system;
  • provide supports to schools, school districts, postsecondary institutions, and their other partners in the form of webinars, templates, toolkits, and conferences focused on improving college and career pathways for all students; and
  • disseminate current research and resources on topics such as the Illinois Pathways Initiative, programs of study, Pathways to Results, college and career readiness, adult career pathways, and transfer and transition practices.

The goals of the Pathways Resource Center are as follows:

  • to serve as a resource in communicating and supporting the importance of pathways as an integral piece of P-20 education;
  • to develop the capacity of P-20 education partners to select, design, and implement pathways and programs of study to promote students’ college and career success;
  • to provide a resource bank of evidence-based materials, which can be accessed by P-20 education partners, which supports the development and implementation of pathways for all students; and
  • to support the sustainability of the pathways research and programming, through efforts to identify external funding and partnership opportunities for P-20 education partners.
PRC Funding
The Pathways Resource Center is funded by Illinois State Board of Education, through the Illinois Race to the Top initiative.

Spotlight Briefs

Current Topics

  • Tips for Successful Grant Writing

    With inequitable resources disadvantaging school districts with predominantly low income and minority students, many school officials are seeking additional support, in the forms of grant funding, to enhance student learning outcomes. Studies show that greater engagement of elementary school students in science and math leads to increased enrollment in higher level math courses and STEM careers (Bertram, 2014; Bryan, Glynn, & Kittleson, 2011). Grants may enable teachers to invest in activity based learning, purchase supplies, and involve students in experiential learning opportunities. Each year, public and private sources of funding are allocated to school districts that submit grant proposals.  Ifeyinwa Onyenekwu offers ten steps school districts can employ that will assist them in the grant writing process in her brief, Tips on Successful Grant Writing. This brief will be beneficial to any school district staff interested in writing grants despite experience level.

    Below I share five tips and strategies provided by Henson (2012) regarding grant seeking and grant writing. Kenneth Henson (2012) is the author of Successful Grant Writing for School Leaders. He posits that a good attitude is essential to the grant writing process. He adds that there are a number of myths that discourage school leaders from applying for a grant. The following statements are examples of commonly heard myths:

    1. It is imperative that schools collaborate with an expert.
    2. There is a shortage of funds available.
    3. Money goes to larger and more popular school districts.

    Henson argues that the most important factor that determines the degree of success people experience when writing grant proposals is their attitude. Often, negative thoughts can discourage educators from reaching their goals. Therefore, having a goal-oriented (i.e., “I can and I will”) attitude is necessary for success. Haller (2012) encourages K-12 STEM educators to volunteer as a grant reviewer and learn what funders are looking for in grant proposals. The knowledge gained from this experience will be advantageous when crafting a grant proposal.

    Find Funding Sources
    Most educators are interested in learning about where to locate grant-funding sources. The federal government provides a publication of grant opportunities. To access this list online, go to Illinois educators can also find state-funded grants on the Illinois State Board of Education website.

    Create a Checklist
    Creating a checklist of all the items that you need to complete an application is helpful in ensuring that application guidelines and requirements are met. While some federal and state grants may provide a checklist, it is beneficial to create one if it is not provided by the potential funder.

    Know your Capabilities
    It is important not to overestimate your abilities or the expectations of the proposal. Therefore, it is beneficial to craft an objective that is both reasonable and feasible. A good proposal has clear, attainable, and measurable objectives. For instance, if a goal is set to improve students’ science test scores, measure this goal by analyzing pre- and post-test data after students have participated in the grant activity.

    Propose an Innovative Idea
    Granting organizations appreciate original and/or unique proposals that address a problem. Funders provide seed money to help pilot or establish new ideas in order to encourage new strategies and approaches.

    Writing Style
    Grant writing requires clarity. In order to achieve this, avoid past tense, exercise brevity, and use action verbs. Visuals such as graphics and tables can help illustrate the goal of your proposal and should be added to improve communication. Writers should be prepared to revise and self-edit a few drafts of a grant proposal. Avoid the use of fancy and unnecessary words, as well as educational jargon. An effective grant proposal explains the goals to the evaluators in a straightforward and succinct manner.

    Bertram, V. (2014). One nation under taught: Solving America’s science, technology, engineering, and math crisis. New York, NY: Beaufort Books.

    Bryan, R. R., Glynn, S. M., & Kittleson, J. M. (2011). Motivation, achievement, and advanced placement intent of high school students learning science. Science Education95, 1049-1065.

    Henson, K. (2012). Successful grant writing for school leaders: 10 easy steps. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

    Haller, D. (2012). 7 Tips for funding your STEM education effort. Retrieved from

    ifeIfeyinwa (Ife) Onyenekwu's research focuses on policy and practices impacting the K-20 education system and students’ college readiness. She is particularly interested in understanding how stakeholders connect research to policy and practice.

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  • Joliet Township High School District 204 Job Shadowing Experience

    A team from the Pathways Resource Center recently visited Joliet Township High School District 204 to learn more about their job shadowing work-based learning program. As a part of an English 2 course requirement, we learned that each sophomore student engages in a job shadowing experience based on career interests. These career interests are supported by the district’s organization of their two high schools into five career academy clusters: Arts and Communications; Business Management and Information Systems; Health and Science; Human Services; and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Sophomores spend time in class learning requirements and foundational skills for the workplace and are expected to spend four consecutive hours in the field observing and inquiring. After their job shadowing experience, students have an opportunity to reflect on their experiences.


    Our visit with Joliet schools provided us with a great example of the value of early student exposure to work contexts. The following two themes of the job shadowing program were prominent throughout our time in Joliet:

    • Collective Cohesiveness. During the visit, we had the opportunity to speak with teachers and business/industry partners. It was clear that all stakeholders understood, were able to articulate, and were committed to the vision. The business/industry representative demonstrated a high level of flexibility regarding the number of students they accepted and types of shadowing experiences offered. They look for various job opportunities within the confines of their businesses to ensure that the schools and students receive the maximum benefit from the experience. Teachers collaborate regularly and all share a role in ensuring students understand the purpose and the importance of the job shadowing experience. They also assist students in the selection of their career choices.

    • Leadership Matters. The success of any program within the school does not come without support from the leadership. In meeting with the Joliet Township High School District superintendent, she relayed her support, as well as the support of the Board of Education, of the job shadowing program. The superintendent also indicated her commitment to provide resources that would ensure the continuation of the job shadowing program and to continually examine future refinements to the program. Also, the program coordinator has done a remarkable job in facilitating the program, securing partnerships, and ensuring that all sophomore students, regardless of travel ability, have a rich experience in the job shadowing program.

    Following this visit I collaborated with Carol Collins to write a Pathways Resource Spotlight brief describing the Job Shadowing Programs in Joliet Township High School District 204. The program affords students the opportunity to gain real life work experience  by partnering with businesses in the students’  career interest. It is clear that students in the Joliet Township High School District have been afforded a remarkable opportunity to explore their areas of career interest. Clearly, this could not happen without the shared commitment of the district and the Joliet business community.

    As researchers, this visit prompted us to consider possible aspects of work-based learning to explore in the future. One of those involves examining issues of equity within the program and as a result of students’ participation in the program. For instance, what impact does a program such as this have on generating equitable outcomes for all students in the labor force? Another area for future research involves exploring student perspectives and garnering insights on what aspects of the program matter most to them.

    hamiltonAsia Fuller Hamilton is a graduate research assistant for the Pathways Resource Center (PRC). Ms. Fuller Hamilton is currently a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership in the division of Educational Administration  and Leadership. She can be reached at

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  • Executive Leadership Academy: Utilizing University Resources to Improve School Districts

    Executive Leadership Academy: Utilizing University Resources to Improve School Districts

    Universities and community colleges are robust resources that school district officials can utilize to improve their organizations. An example of this is the annual Chancellor’s Academy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a professional development conference for educators in local communities held in June. Chancellor’s Academy has proved beneficial to local educators, including assisting both Champaign and Urbana school districts in establishing instructional coaching models within their systems.

    The University recently held its inaugural Executive Leadership Academy (ELA), a three-day professional development conference for Champaign, Urbana, and Rantoul school district administrators. With funding support from the O’Leary Foundation, University of Illinois College of Education faculty worked to design a program that would assist school leaders in expanding executive leadership skills through professional development. Executive Director of ELA, Dr. James Gallaher, worked with district administrative teams to conduct a Leadership Architect survey, a competency model to identify critical competencies of focus from a leadership standpoint. The theme for this year’s ELA was Leading Forward: Strategies for Innovative Leadership. Various university professors and partners drew upon those identified competencies throughout the workshops to assist administrators in moving forward in their leadership skills development.

    executive-leadership1The event began with an invigorating keynote address by Dr. Pedro Noguera, a nationally renowned professor from the University of California at Los Angeles, who implored attendees to resist the status quo and seek ways to provide more equitable opportunities for students who have been historically underserved in schools. He highlighted the tensions that exist between policy and practice and praised the ideas and missions of both the Executive Leadership Academy and the Chancellor’s Academy by stating, “When you’re in a town so close the university, schools should receive a benefit.”

    Other notable ELA sessions included:

    Leaders as Decision Makers: Dr. Mary Hermann, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership and a former Illinois school superintendent, shared her practical experience in making leadership decisions and implored participants to consider how their decisions impact organizational capacity and can affect change.

    The Communicative Side of Work Relationships: Dr. Robert Husband, a retired professor in the department of Speech Communications and co-founder and senior partner of Aslan Group consulting, delivered an enthusiastic presentation on considering who we are as communicators and how to strengthen our listening skills.

    Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment: Assessment and evaluations should be culturally responsive conveyed Dr. Stafford Hood, the Sheila M. Miller professor in Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Psychology in the College of Education, and we need to ask critical questions that will help us to obtain the answers to achieve this goal.

    Real-Talk A Capstone Experience: Led by Dr. Preston James, retired Urbana school district superintendent, this session provided participants legal case scenarios which educators constantly face and asked participants to decide how they would react and resolve the issues. Panelists from organizations including the media, local police departments, school lawyers, and teacher unions, gave resolutions based on their perspectives.

    This was the first Executive Leadership Academy, but as it moves forward Dr. Gallaher envisions continued expansion:

    After a successful leadership development program with local school districts, the next step for the Executive Leadership Academy is to offer leadership development programming for education organizational leaders across the state of Illinois.  Our goal is to become the first choice for educational leaders in the state of Illinois and beyond.

    School districts around the state should consider their district needs and know that the University of Illinois’ Executive Leadership Academy is a potential resource to expanding the leadership skills of their school administrators.

    For more information regarding the Executive Leadership Academy:

    Executive Leadership Academy
    333 Education Building
    1310 S. Sixth St.
    Champaign, IL 61820

    hamiltonAsia Fuller Hamiltonis a graduate research assistant for the Pathways Resource Center (PRC). Ms. Fuller Hamilton is currently a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership in the division of Educational Administration  and Leadership. She can be reached at

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  • Seven Observations on how Education Leaders can Create Next Generation Learning Environments for College and Career Success

    Dr. Richard Halverson, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shared information and strategies that will be useful for educational leaders as they create innovative, next generation learning environments that facilitate college and career success. This Pathways Resource Center webinar recorded on August 3, 2015, is available below.  The webinar recording and presentation slides are now available.

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  • Creating Innovative, Next Generation Learning Environments

    Seven Observations on how Education Leaders can Create Next Generation Learning Environments for College and Career Success
    A Pathways Resource Center Webinar

    August 3, 2015
    9:30am – 10:30am

    Dr. Richard Halverson, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shares information and strategies that will be useful for educational leaders as they create innovative, next generation learning environments that facilitate college and career success for all students. Participant will have opportunities for dialogue and to ask questions. To register click here.

    ifeIfeyinwa (Ife) Onyenekwu serves as the Project Coordinator for the Pathways Resource Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ife has research, administrative, and teaching experience at the university level and most recently served as Resident Director for University Housing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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