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

  • Supporting Completion Goals in Illinois

    The Illinois 60 by 25 Network recently gathered in Springfield for their annual meeting. The coalition of business, funders, non-profit representatives, and educators gathered to recognize and enhance the work occurring throughout the state within regional leadership communities. These communities are tasked with improving career pathway systems and post-secondary degree completion rates in their respective regions to realize the goal of 60% of the state’s residents possessing a post-secondary degree or credential by 2025. Identified session tracks included Employer Engagement and Work-Based Learning; Structuring Education Systems; Community Engagement; and Diversity, Inclusion, and Access. 

    Community colleges are, no doubt, critical to these efforts. The Pathways to Results program has a long history of engaging employers and educators in collaborative partnerships to identify equity gaps in outcomes and implement practices to close these gaps. Much of the work occurring within the regions aligns with strategies identified within PTR projects including an upcoming brief on work-based learning. As we look to the future of realizing the 60 by 25 goal, PTR is a tremendous asset to assist community colleges and their partners in approaching this goal from an equity lens to improve not only access to pathways but successful outcomes for all students.

    The annual meeting was sponsored by Advance Illinois, ISAC, Career Cruising, The Joyce Foundation, College Board, Lumina Foundation, Education Systems Center at NIU, and Telligen Community Initiative. 

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  • Tearing Down Obstacles to Student Success — Apply Now to Kickstart a PTR Project!

    OCCRL is excited to announce that the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) is now accepting applications for new Pathways to Results: Partnership and Planning for Student Success projects across Illinois! OCCRL and ICCB are looking for partners interested in assembling a meaningful plan for implementing an evidence-based career pathway improvement that addresses documented gaps in student success. Different than in years past, teams’ PTR work will be concentrated through participation in an intensive two-day institute to prepare for the final deliverable—an intervention plan that is eligible to be considered for a Year Two PTR grant to support implementation and scaling of the project intervention in the 2016/2017 academic year.

    Teams will be selected based on their commitment to engage in a PTR project in one of six focus areas:

    • Adult Career Pathways
    • Improvement of Federal Perkins Measures
    • Retention or Completion Improvement Across Multiple Programs
    • Transfer Pathways
    • Program Review
    • Secondary to Postsecondary Transitions

    To view the application, download it here. Applications are due February 12, 2016. For more information, please contact Heather McCambly.

    Learn more about Pathways to Results (PTR).

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  • Measuring Our Own Success: Transfer, Learning, and Policy

    I had the great fortune in my time at the Association of American Colleges and Universities to be a part of the Quality Collaboratives, a project spanning nine states and 11 institutional dyads (i.e. partnered two-year and four-year public institutions) to test the Degree Qualification Profile as a framework for the assessment and documentation of student learning outcomes in the context of transfer.

    Evaluating the work of these community college and university partners, as well as their state policy context, brought out many important insights about how documented student learning outcomes (rather than credit hours or seat time) could be used to reframe transfer practices and policies in a way better suited to today’s mobile and swirling student populations. The project also revealed the extensive groundwork that must be laid in terms of collaboration across community colleges and four-year partners in order to think systemically about how students’ demonstrations of learning might be used as the currency for more efficient, effective, and equitable transfer policy and practice. Some of these findings are outlined in the recently released report The Quality of a College Degree: Toward New Frameworks, Evidence, and Interventions that I had the pleasure of coauthoring with Debra Humphreys and Judith Ramaley.

    We observed that as “the college completion agenda continues to dominate policy discussions, we have arrived at a moment of potential convergence: efficiency, improved completion rates, and higher levels of student achievement do not have to be mutually exclusive goals. All three of these goals are important to the future of postsecondary institutions, and one goal should not be sacrificed for another.” And perhaps most importantly, without crafting policies and measurements that place value and resources behind achieving equity for low-income students, first-generation students, students of color, and other underserved students, we cannot achieve our goals or our purpose in community colleges and public universities to provide pathways to economic opportunity.

    But where do we begin to place learning and equity at the center of our extremely complex systems of credentialing and transfer? Tell us—how does student learning fit into your assessments or your transfer pathways? Do you think about student learning as an equity issue?

    mccamblyHeather McCambly leads the Pathways to Results Initiative at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL).

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  • Introducing the New Pathways To Results (PTR)

    Recently, Illinois’ Forum for Excellence provided the opportunity for several OCCRL researchers to present improvements to Pathways to Results (PTR) that emphasize:

    • Using student outcomes data to drive all aspects of PTR
    • Ensuring that data on student equity outcomes drives decision-making on the engagement and commitment of partners, process and practice assessment, and process improvement and evaluation
    • Emphasizing review and reflection from the start to the finish of all PTR projects

    These improvements in PTR came about through research conducted by OCCRL researchers during the 2014-15 academic year. Improving a Path to Equity: Engaging Student Voices by Heather McCambly and Debra Bragg and Pathways to Results: Five Teams, Five Experiences in the Spotlight by Heather McCambly and Edmund Graham III provide additional supporting information regarding the changes that were adopted to improve PTR.

    OCCRL looks forward to the opportunity to work with practitioners across the state of Illinois to implement new PTR projects in 2015-16. Despite state budget woes, OCCRL’s commitment to improving equity and outcomes through PTR does not waiver.

    For more information please contact:

    heather-mccamblyHeather McCambly, M.A., is the Project Coordinator for the Pathways to Results and Finish Up Illinois initiatives at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership


    debra-braggDr. Debra D. Bragg is the founding director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership

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  • Ready, Set, Go! What is Your Capacity to Scale?

    On October 22nd we will be hosting a webinar that will share information about sustaining and scaling initiatives using the framework developed through the Transformative Change Initiative. The goal is to help show the connection between this work and continuous improvement efforts like Pathways to Results and provide people with a readiness tool to help them focus their efforts to build capacity. The webinar is free and open to anyone interested.

    Event details:
    October 22, 2015
    3:00 – 3:30pm
    To register, click here.

    As educators strive to engage and support their students they are improving the programs, policies, and practices and employing new strategies that define the educational system. When an innovation shows promise in fostering success for students, there is a desire to sustain and scale the initiative, growing its impact. However, because of the complexity involved in scaling, coupled with limited resources and time, many successful innovations are short lived with limited long term impact. The Transformative Change Initiative is dedicated to assisting community colleges to scale-up innovations that improve student outcomes and program, organization, and system performance. This webinar is designed to help you take the first step towards building the capacity needed to scale an educational innovation and build transformative change. During this webinar you’ll get a preview of the new Ready to Scale Tool, a self-assessment tool that will help you to explore the current capacity available to support scaling the innovation.  This self-assessment is the first step towards building the capacity necessary to move from local innovation to transformative change.

     wilkinsAshley Wilkins serves as a member of the PTR team at OCCRL. Before OCCRL, Ashley worked for a nonprofit supporting underserved students to access and transition into higher education. She also worked with the Gateway to College National Network supporting the implementation, evaluation, and scaling of student success programs in the community college context at sites across the country.

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