Career Pathways: Preparing Students for Life

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Career Pathways is a system of organizing student learning interests and aptitudes around career fields. The model grew out of the federally funded National School-to-Work Opportunities Act (1994). Briefly, a career pathways high school starts with the career clusters, for students to align themselves with in high school. Depending on the school location and capacity, there are a variety of career clusters that are offered - engineering, health, science, art/design, writing, business, agriculture, etc. - and a curriculum is built around the individual pathway and career field - e.g. nurse - that the student chooses from within their career cluster. This is a student-oriented model of self-determination, in which students choose a curriculum area that matches their aptitudes and abilities. Core curriculum is still taught throughout each silo, so standardized testing is accommodated. Career pathways allow students to connect their learning from year to year, to practice their strengths and skills to prepare for transition to college or work, to work as teams, etc. It does not require a high school to overhaul their system, but instead shows how high schools can integrate the pathways model to work within a school and make it a more connected learning environment.