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Knowledge From the Field

Assessing California's Multiple Pathways Field: Preparing Youth for Success in College and Career

Published: June 2009

Publisher(s): James Irvine Foundation

Author(s): Howard, Don; Patrick Wu

Funder(s): James Irvine Foundation

Related Organization(s): Bridgespan Group

View Report (58 pages; 2.12MB; PDF)

Area of focus: Strengthen Preparation for College and Careers


Based on research by the Bridgespan Group, the report reviews the state of the “multiple pathways” approach to education, which seeks to support both strong vocational and college preparation within the same schools. The assessment is based on a framework of five core qualities that a strong field should maintain: shared identity, standards of practice, knowledge base, leadership and grassroots support, and funding and supporting policy. Conclusions were based on interviews and focus groups with key thought leaders familiar with multiple pathways. The report also offers recommendations for the multiple pathways field to become stronger and more organized and presents profiles of organizations that use a multiple pathways approach.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

+ Exemplary programs have built awareness of the multiple pathways strategy and buy-in from key constituencies. Many believe the next step is large-scale, system-wide demonstrations.

+ School-level demonstration programs have generated promising evidence of success.

+ District, policy, and business leaders increasingly support the multiple pathways approach.

= Support from parents and students is an important component of bringing multiple pathways to scale.

= Recommendations include:

Develop a clear, precise definition of multiple pathways, messaging aligned with that definition, and a quality-control system to distinguish high-fidelity implementations

Establish large-scale, system-wide demonstrations

Work to increase state funding and create more supportive policies that would facilitate broad adoption

- Members of the field do not agree on terminology or the definition of key concepts surrounding multiple pathways.

- Research gaps are greatest in the development and dissemination of best practices and the measurement of student outcomes.

- Participants have low affiliation with the field.

- The field has few formal mechanisms for sharing knowledge and collaborating.

- The supply of trained teachers, curricula, and technical assistance is insufficient to support growing demand.

Geographic Focus: California

Subjects/Keywords: College prep; school reform; public policy; multiple pathways; college-ready; career-ready

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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