Wayfinders: Building Pathways During a Time of Re-Opening

Throughout the high school and postsecondary education experience, young people are considering and making important decisions about their futures. Recent Equitable Futures research showed that despite feeling greater levels of uncertainty about their specific pathways over the past year, young people are still actively pursuing educational and employment opportunities. As the new school year approaches and students return to in-person learning, now is the time to ensure young people feel seen, engaged, and connected to their purpose and long-term goals. Young people — especially those who are Black and Latino and who are experiencing poverty — need support, access, and advice to learn about the possible pathways open to them and prepare for their next steps.

In this month’s Wayfinders:

  • A digital playbook with proven strategies for district leaders to invest in and advance high-quality, postsecondary pathways for every student, 
  • A report on what parents and young adults believe and want to know about education to workforce pathways, 
  • A resource with action steps for an aligned advising experience across K-12 and higher education, 
  • And a collection of articles we’re reading this month.

Invest Forward: Maximizing Stimulus Investments to Expand Postsecondary Pathways

Attaining a postsecondary credential is still one of the best ways a young person can achieve long-term opportunity and economic mobility. The quality of support they receive during high school plays a significant role on their path to postsecondary success — from the options they will consider to the likelihood they’ll go on to complete a postsecondary program. Unfortunately, the pandemic has had an alarming impact on students’ transitions to postsecondary education and training. Last fall, there was a 7% drop in the number of students who moved directly to higher education after high school graduation. In schools with large populations of young people experiencing poverty, it was an 11% drop — a trend that is likely to persist as students and their families continue to feel the impacts of the pandemic. With the unprecedented amount of funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), education leaders have an opportunity to invest and advance schools and districts’ support for equitable access, entry and success in high-quality postsecondary pathways.

This week, Education Strategy Group launched Invest Forward, a new effort to encourage district and state leaders to use stimulus funds to prioritize support for students’ pathways to postsecondary and career success and provide them with investment ideas that have been proven to work. District leaders can Invest Forward by helping students build college and career momentum early in high school; acquire knowledge, experiences, and relationships necessary for career success; earn college credit and/or stackable credentials before graduation; and directly enroll in postsecondary education or training programs that lead to credentials with labor market value. Now is the moment to invest in the changes our education systems need to fulfill the promise of postsecondary and career success for every student. Visit investforward.us for detailed how-to guides and to connect with experts to plan for your pathways investments.

Pathways Matter to Families

A quality education prepares students for the workforce and the futures they envision for themselves. When a student’s K-12 experience is connected to their long-term goals, they’re more likely to earn a postsecondary credential and successfully transition into the workforce. However, too many young people finish high school without the knowledge, skills and experience needed to succeed in college and/or career. While many districts offer CTE programs or work-based learning options, many young people are not aware of all the educational opportunities and pathways available to them. 

A new report by ExcelinEd examines how both students and their parents experience their current pathways opportunities. Many reported significant gaps in confidence in their ability to achieve important career outcomes, as well as gaps in awareness of and access to critical pathway experiences. Policymakers and state and local education leaders can utilize the insights in the report to support and expand access to high-quality pathways and experiences to ensure all young people — and their families — receive the support they need to make informed decisions in navigating pathways leading to their postsecondary and career goals. Read more about the research and access the full report here.

Making the Connection: Aligning Advising to Improve Postsecondary Access and Success

Relationships with advisors, mentors, and peers play a key role in students’ journeys to and through higher education and into the workforce. Those who receive high-quality advising during high school gain academic, navigational, and relational benefits such as higher GPAs, increased college applications, and expanded networks to leverage social capital. Unfortunately, access to high-quality advising varies widely from district to district, school to school, and even within a school. Many Black and Latino young people and young people from low-income backgrounds face additional barriers in accessing the support they need to understand the opportunities available to them and make informed decisions about their futures. An aligned advising experience across K-12 and higher education is essential for opening the doors to postsecondary and career success for all young people. 

A new resource from Education Strategy Group highlights the importance of prioritizing alignment of advising across K-12 and higher education and offers a vision for achieving that alignment. The “Making the Connection” site lays out concrete action steps leaders across the education spectrum can take to ensure all young people receive a standard set of college and career advising support during high school and as a core part of their postsecondary and training experience. When it comes to accessing, transitioning to, and succeeding in postsecondary education and training, high-quality support can make all the difference. Check out the new site here.

What We’re Reading

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