Pathways to Results (PTR) is aimed at improving student transitions to and through postsecondary education and into employment. It empowers organizations to use methods, templates and tools to continuously improve pathways and programs of study by addressing inequities in student outcomes. Enhanced outcomes for students, programs, organizations, and systems is the ultimate goal of PTR.

Pathways to Results Introductory Video

Goals and History of PTR

Debra Bragg, Gutgsell Endowed Professor and founding director of OCCRL, describes how PTR focuses on access and outcomes of students.


  • Improve career cluster-based Programs of Study planning and implementation using an inquiry- and equity-focused, continuous improvement process.
  • Improve transition outcomes for underserved students, including groups of students who are racially and ethnically diverse, low income, low literacy, and first generation college.
  • Align PTR to public policies dedicated to improving student transition to college and careers, including Carl D. Perkins, NCLB and High Schools that Work (HSTW), Titles I and II of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Accelerating Opportunities (Jobs for the Future), Shifting Gears (Joyce Foundation), and other initiatives.
  • Improve access of PTR teams to data and tools that support evidence-based decision making and continuous improvement.


Pathways to Results (PTR) emerged as a method to improve Programs of Study in the state of Illinois, but it can be applied to any program and process that seeks to improve outcomes and performance. OCCRL’s development of PTR has benefited from the generous support of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB). Insights from leaders of the University of Southern California’s Center on Urban Education (CUE), specifically the Equity Scorecard™ and the Benchmarking Equity and Student Success Tool™, have been instrumental to PTR’s development, which began in 2009 with six pilot sites.

To date, PTR has involved a total of 66 projects involving nearly all community colleges and most secondary districts in Illinois. Trade Adjustment Act Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) consortia that are partnering with OCCRL as third-party evaluator are implementing PTR as well. Further, OCCRL is integrating PTR into the Transformative Change Inititative, which is a new initiative that seeks to scale pathway and program of study innovations nationwide. In all these ways, PTR helps practitioners to understand obstacles to student success (from the students’ perspective) so breakthroughs can happen. Bottom line:  Adoption of equity-minded practices is key to raising performance.

PTR is aligned with Illinois’ Program of Study Initiative, which follows six guiding principles created by practitioners across the site, with guidance and support from the OCCRL, the ICCB, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support (ICSPS) at Illinois State University. To read more about Programs of Study, its six principles, or find resources for Programs of Study, please follow the links provided.

Current Topics

    Truman logo blog
  • Analyzing Student Data from an Equity Perspective…In Real Life

    What does it mean to report student outcomes by gender, race, or income level? Our college has been grappling with this question as we pursue a variety of assessment projects that involve analysis of student data.

    We have found that some educators object to reporting outcomes by demographics at all. They worry that we will use race or gender to "explain" low success rates. They also question the purpose of presenting data that show predictable gaps between privileged and less privileged students. What do these reports ultimately achieve?

    As researchers, we appreciate these concerns, and we are mindful of them when we analyze student data. However, we also believe that measuring and addressing gaps in student outcomes is essential work that drives our institution to improve.

    The Pathways to Results process gives us a model for analyzing demographic data responsibly, and it provides language that helps us to keep the focus on institutional responsibility. In particular, our team has benefited from the distinction between "deficit-minded" thinking and "equity-minded" thinking, a concept originating from the Center for Urban Education that is integral to the PTR process.  Rather than concluding, "These students do not perform as well," we have adopted the mindset that "We are not serving these students as well."

    PTR team
    Harry S Truman College's PTR Team

    Our PTR team's data analysis of the Cosmetology program revealed that African American male students have lower success rates. In our assessment, we discovered that many of our male students are seeking to become barbers, and the curriculum did not reflect their career goals as well as it reflected those of female students. As a result of these findings, Truman will make curricular changes that integrate men's haircutting into the Cosmetology program in FY2017.

    We also found that these students tend to have lower scores on the reading placement test. The focus of our PTR Year 2 implementation project is integrating our Reading Center with Cosmetology so that students receive reading and test-taking support throughout the program.

    We view both of these interventions as our responsibility as a community college that serves a diverse population. At Truman, we are passionate about implementing programs and support services that allow all students to succeed, regardless of where they start, and our hope is that these interventions will bring us closer to our goal of equity.

    Our demographic analysis helped us to realize that we were not giving all students an equal opportunity to succeed in Cosmetology, and we feel that examining student data in this way was essential to our process. At the same time, we appreciate the concerns raised by our critics, because they remind us that demographic data can easily lead to deficit-minded interpretations. These discussions have prompted us to be more conscious of our language, and to make sure that we emphasize the equity framework throughout any presentation that includes student demographics.

    Maureen and Cari

    Dr. Cari Lynn Hennessy (pictured right) is the Director, Strategic Initiatives at Harry S Truman College. Previously, she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute for Policy Research. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at Northwestern University in 2013.

    Maureen Pylman (pictured left) is the Assistant Director of Research and Planning at Harry S Truman College supporting the teaching and research efforts of faculty. She is completing a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee where her research focused on the transition to postsecondary education and educational trajectories.

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  • workforce-blog
  • Understanding Local Workforce Systems

    The passage of WIOA in 2014 marks a new emphasis on workforce strategies that emphasize strong partnerships with many stakeholders that help strengthen local systems. Understanding local workforce systems and these frameworks is important when WIOA moves toward full implementation this summer.

    In our brief, “Understanding Local Workforce Systems,” my co-authors and I offer a framework for local workforce systems, as a strategic way of thinking about a complex set of actors and goals. This brief starts by defining a local workforce system and outlining the current policy and funding context. Then we discuss who the workforce system serves and key organizations involved. Followed by descriptions of the seven major functions of local workforce systems. The brief ends with potential strategies for addressing local workforce issues.

    The brief is part of the five-year collaboration between JPMorgan Chase and the Urban Institute to inform and assess JPMorgan Chase’s philanthropic investments in key initiatives. One of these is New Skills at Work, a $250 million multi-year investment in workforce programs that aims to expand and replicate effective approaches for linking education and training efforts with the skills and competencies employers need.

    Read more at Understanding Local Workforce Systems. If you have any questions or comments on this brief you can contact me at or you can contact the lead author Lauren Eyster at

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  • Finding the Right Tool Among Many for Transforming Pathways

    As we assess and make decisions about our research and many leadership efforts, one question is often at the forefront: How do we make sure that our work is both meaningful and useful in the field to help improve and support student success?

    This question led us this fall to think about how we can help practitioners, many of whom are actively striving to be “data-driven” or “evidence-based” in their practice, to make sense of and apply the many types of evidence and many sources of data (particularly those available in OCCRL’s products) in a systematic and accessible manner. In other words, to start to make OCCRL’s work in the pathways field even more useful.  

    OCCRL has produced a great deal of work on practices, populations, and principles to be used by institutional agents to produce equitable outcomes for students on their pathways. What we haven’t done is illustrate how the various publications, findings, and products can fit together in specific contexts to address problems of student success. In our latest Insights on Equity and Outcomes brief— Transforming Pathway Performance: Leveraging Key Knowledge of Pathways Principles, Populations, and Practices we sought to do this by offering a facilitation tool to bridge what we know from research with how campus practitioners make decisions in the field.  

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    This facilitation tool is now available in its first published iteration. However, we welcome your input as we begin to think about how we can make it even better. How do you see this facilitation tool being used within your institution? In what ways can it be improved to addressed contextual nuances that differentiate one institution from another? 

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  • Transfer in the Spotlight: New Models, New Opportunities

    Despite it's long historic mission in U.S. community colleges, transfer is receiving a great deal of attention these days. Issues related to successful transfer from community colleges to universities are being explored through initiatives such as Credit When It's Due (CWID) and transfer research. In cities like Chicago, higher education institutions are exploring new models such as the Arrupa College created by Loyola University of Chicago. Serving underserved populations, particularly low-income students in the Chicago metropolitan area, Arrupa College promises to offer a summer pre-enrollment orientation, small class sizes and academic and social supports, one-on-one contact with specialized faculty, an associate’s degree that is fully transferable throughout the state, and possibly most important, a financial strategy that permits low-income students to fully finance the cost of instruction without accumulating debt that will extend beyond completion of their associate’s degree.

    To read the full article by Debra Bragg, please go to:

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  • multicraft blog
  • PTR Implementing Change Series: Developmental Education at Sauk Valley Community College

    The Pathways to Results process is built upon the implementation of an equity-focused continuous improvement model to serve all stakeholders within a student pathway. Since PTR’s inception, colleges have been forming councils, consisting of secondary and postsecondary educators, industry members, economic development professionals, and others believed to be vital to identifying barriers and overcoming them. This “full-court press” on a program has created rich dialogue that has unraveled many barriers to success and a pathway to improvement at Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC).

    Staying true to its philosophy, OCCRL has implemented a second-year PTR process to support promising ideas for improvement. The idea is quite simple: pick up where first-year teams left off and continue unpacking the data while also implementing an evidence-based intervention for success.

    multicraft Photo

    Two years ago, SVCC embarked on the journey of PTR within its Multicraft Technology A.A.S. pathway. The program, which is manufacturing-based, allows a student to take a core set of required courses, but then specialize in a selected area, including Welding, HVAC, Alternative Energy, Electronics, or Electrical. This “jack-of-all trades” A.A.S. degree has provided manufacturers with some relief to the skills gap they’d been experiencing.

    In terms of the pathway structures itself, Multicraft is a model program—it includes several stackable credentials on the way to a highly marketable A.A.S., as well as an articulated transfer agreement for students who would like to complete a four-year degree in Engineering Technology at either NIU or SIU. However, in terms of student success as measured both by what students learn (e.g. problem solving and critical thinking) and disaggregated completion rates, there is still work to be done and the PTR process has created the framework to advance these efforts.

    One of the barriers identified in the team’s first-year process involved math requirements. In dissecting the data, it was concluded that students were putting off general education requirements and taking their technical classes in the first 2-3 semesters, which is a common, yet discouraged practice. This seemed to be acting as a roadblock to program completion. To better understand this issue, the team brought students to the table to create a mixed methods approach to analyzing this problem.  As a result, the team found that integrating math across the curriculum might better prepare students and boost their confidence with the subject. 

    As the second year team begins to implement the integrated math curriculum, they have decided to go a step further and tackle a barrier that extends across our nation and far beyond just our rural community college in northern Illinois: developmental education. Faculty realized in conversation that despite the best efforts of many students, the diversity in this program really seemed to drop after the earliest courses because of math or reading skills gaps that leave many diverse students struggling and discouraged in the programmatic coursework. Developmental education, it seems, is a distinct barrier to equity in this pathway, and likely others. In a way, developmental education is also a continuous improvement process in itself. Given the potential to impact student outcomes, this team believes it is a fitting and worthy focus that will not only influence Multicraft or SVCC, but stakeholders well beyond this community. 

    Jon_Mandrell 8-25-14Dr. Jon Mandrell serves as the Vice President of Academics and Student Services at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Illinois, where he is the Chief Academic Officer (CAO) and Chief Student Services Officer (CSSO). He has worked closely with several manufacturing and workforce initiatives within the Sauk Valley community, local school districts, and its industry base. Over the years, much of these efforts have been made possible through the PTR processes. 

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