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Illinois districts building robust STEM pathways and programs of study

by The College of Education  /   Mar 28, 2014

New high school guide to assist innovative educators, partners

A new, free guide aims to assist educators and their partners who wish to develop and implement rigorous, context-sensitive programs of study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The guide builds upon the Office of Community College and Research’s Illinois Programs of Study Guide and integrates recent findings. It is designed to support educators across Illinois, with a special focus on the Illinois Race to the Top (RttT) districts that are required to select and implement at least two STEM programs of study as part of RttT activities.

“The process of building and refining a program of study is complex and multifaceted but well worth the effort to promote students’ college and career success,” said Don Hackmann, professor of education policy, organization and leadership and director of the Pathways Resource Center.

“This companion document will greatly assist school and district leaders as they pursue this meaningful work,” Hackmann said.

In an evolving and demanding labor market, creating aligned secondary-to-postsecondary pathways is increasingly seen as essential. Robust and context-sensitive STEM pathways and programs of study offer a promising means of fulfilling this critical role.

Programs of study are sequences of courses that incorporate a non-duplicative progression of secondary and postsecondary elements; they include both academic and career and technical education content. Programs of study typically begin by ninth grade and continue through at least two years of postsecondary education, providing students with opportunities to move toward postsecondary or industry-recognized credentials, certificates, or degrees.

Educators and scholars have developed a set of key components, considerations, and guiding principles for those engaging in this work in a companion document designed to synthesize the current “best thinking” from research and practice.

The document primarily considered the vantage point of the secondary educator and school leaders. It includes a set of suggested steps and phases for the development and implementation of programs of study based on resources created by other states. Its purpose is to ease the load and enhance the effectiveness of educators and partners who wish to pursue or continue these complex and meaningful undertakings.

“STEM Pathways and Programs of Study in the Land of Lincoln: A High School Companion to the Illinois Programs of Study Guide,” written by Joel Malin, debuted on March 13 at the Connections Conference. It was shared with an audience of secondary and post-secondary educators and their partners. Malin noted this companion document is aimed to be “user-friendly and comprehensive, synthesizing information from a variety of studies and resources.”

Hackmann said the guide provides information and practical strategies for Illinois high school educators as they strive to engage students in a rigorous course of study that prepares them for college and career success.

About Pathways Resource Center: The mission of the Pathways Resource Center is to provide resources and supports to secondary and postsecondary institutions, employers, communities, and other partners as they engage in successful and sustainable pathways for students from secondary to postsecondary to careers. The Pathways Resource Center is an affiliate office of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Established in 1989, the Office of Community College Research and Leadership in the College of Education at Illinois uses research and evaluation methods to improve policies and programs to enhance community college education and transition to college for diverse learners in Illinois and the United States.