Why Pathways Matter to Student Success

by Ann Jones / Apr 21, 2014

Pathways to Result (PTR) is aimed at improving student transitions to and through postsecondary education and into employment. It provides methods, tools and templates to address inequities in student outcomes and improve student, program, organization, and system performance. 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. To date, PTR has involved a total of 66 completed projects involving 43 of the 48 community colleges in Illinois along with high school and community partners. Trade Adjustment Act Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) consortia that are partnering with OCCRL as third-party evaluators are implementing PTR as well. Further, OCCRL is integrating PTR into the Transformative Change Initiative, which seeks to scale pathway and program of study innovations nationwide.

Pictured: Marcy Drummond, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, presents at the March 5, 2014 Scaling Up Pathways to Results Conference.

On March 5, the Office of Community College Research and Leadership along with the Pathways Resource Center held the fourth annual Scaling Up Pathways to Results 2014 conference. In her keynote address, Marcy Drummond from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation discussed the Pathways students navigate in our education system.

Because youth transitions are taking longer and today's students are less likely to attend college immediately upon graduating for high school, are independent, working, going to school part-time, and in some cases are raising children as single parents ... their engagement in postsecondary education is increasingly nomadic. They stop and come back. They move between colleges or simultaneously attend multiple colleges. They change majors. They start at a community college and continue on to university, sometimes with a break in between for gainful employment. And at each transition, they risk losing momentum or dropping out completely. Even moving from high school directly to college is a challenge where high school graduation and college entry standards don't align or where remediation is often required. Learners need to be able to easily transition from high school to college, among colleges, and between college and the workforce over the course of their lifetimes particularly taking into consideration most learners do not take linear paths as their personal lives, education, and careers evolve.

She goes on to say:

Secondary and postsecondary education providers and employers need to work collaboratively to design and implement education to employment pathways that are more learner-centric, structured, adaptive, learning outcome-focused, and portable.

The PTR process helps practitioners to understand obstacles to student success (from the students’ perspective) so breakthroughs can happen, but it is going to take all of us working together to help scale these pathway initiatives. We need to ask ourselves, how can we foster effective transitions? How can we develop and implement more structured pathways? View the video of Ms. Drummond’s presentation:


Pathways to Results is funded by the Illinois Community College Board. The Pathways Resource Center was funded by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Ann Jones in top photo.