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The Link Between Career/Technical Education and Student Success

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Investing in Education
It’s not just kids, parents, and teachers who feel the impact of our public schools. If you’re a citizen of Delaware, then you are—in one way or another—affected by our state’s education system. Check back regularly as we take a closer look at how When Students Succeed, We All Win.


Just one career and technical education course above the average can boost a student’s odds of graduating high school and enrolling in a two-year college, according to a study by the Fordham Institute. It can also lead to a higher likelihood of college enrollment, employment, and better wages.

So how are Delaware students accessing career and technical education courses?

Approximately 70 percent of Delaware students in grades nine through 12 take a CTE course. These classes are specifically sequenced and aligned to a specific career or industry. In recent years, Delaware Pathways has strengthened the sequencing of courses through the development of state-model pathways. These pathways provide students with high-quality education, training, and support services in high-demand areas in Delaware’s economy.

Students who complete a career pathway attain a high school diploma, earn an industry-recognized credential, certificate or license that holds value in the labor market, and a clear link to opportunities to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree program at a Delaware college or university. Currently, there are more than 6,000 students enrolled in 11 state-model programs of study.

We hope to continue to expand in the coming years to give students greater opportunities to prepare for college and career success. However, the greatest obstacle to developing a strong local workforce is a lack of systemic coordination across stakeholder groups. Delaware Pathways provides a platform for educators, institutions of higher education, policymakers, and business and community leaders to work together to improve opportunities for students.

There are plenty of ways to get involved in developing Delaware’s future workforce.

USA Fund Grant Could Ease Remediation Burden for Students

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Every August, college freshmen arrive on campus feeling nervous about finding their way in a sea of strangers. Add on the stress of financing a degree, and the first semester of college is no walk in the park. Imagine being told amidst this transition, that you are required to take a remedial course. The course costs money, and doesn’t count toward your degree. This is reality for about 42 percent of Delaware public high school graduates attending a Delaware public college or university, according to the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE). Discouraged and overwhelmed by the cost and additional coursework, students who require remediation are less likely to successfully complete a degree.

This week, Governor Markell announced a $250,000 grant from USA Funds that could help address this issue while students are still in high school. The grant will bring English and vocational teachers together with college faculty to develop a Foundations of College English course. Once the course is established, eleventh grade students who do not meet the PSAT or SAT benchmark for college readiness in ELA will be eligible to take the course, and upon completion become eligible to take college-level coursework in their senior year. Ultimately, the governor and DDOE are hopeful this program will increase students’ college readiness in ELA by the end of 11th grade and expand access to college-level coursework for high schoolers. A similar program, the Foundations of College Math course, was developed for math in 2014.

“Students who require remediation are delayed in earning industry credentials and a two or four-year degree that would prepare them for employment,” said Matt Burrows, superintendent of the Appoquinimink School District. Existing programs in Delaware high schools allow students to get a jumpstart on earning the credentials and education needed to be successful in a career. This includes over 5,000 participants in state-model programs of study launched last year through the Delaware Pathways initiative. For that reason, the Foundations of College English course will begin as a pilot in select high schools for students enrolled in the Allied Health pathway program. This pilot will serve as a model for statewide expansion.

At the announcement, USA Funds president Bill Hansen talked about the importance of building on the great work already underway to improve student success across the country. Delaware is continuing to develop ways to prepare our students for success after high school. Along with Delaware Pathways, the state has extended opportunities for all students to take the PSAT and SAT for free during the school day, expanded in-school supports for students in filling out college applications and the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and increased opportunities for students to gain college credit through AP and dual enrollment courses. The grant will help grow these successes and truly make Delaware a model for the nation.


Alyssa McGraw contributed to this blog.

The Path Forward on Pathways: What We Heard

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Readers of this blog might recall the Rodel Foundation and the United Way of Delaware recently co-hosted a community conversation about Delaware Pathways and its still-under-development strategic plan.

The event was a resounding success. From the Wilmington Public Library, community members and leaders from various nonprofit organizations weighed in on the present state of college and career readiness for Delaware students—and where they’d like to see it go in the future.

Here’s just a small sample of the feedback we heard:

  • Attendees emphasized the importance of keeping students and families as the focus of our work, and engaging current students and recent graduates in our feedback process.
  • They discussed the importance of aligning our K-12 system, our institutions of higher education, and our employers to help create meaningful academic and work experiences for our students.
  • We talked about how important it is to start career exploration early with students, as early as middle school, with activities like guest speakers, visits to workplaces, and internships.
  • Guests emphasized clear communications with parents and students about the benefits of Career and Technical Education (CTE), program availability, and opportunities available through these programs of study.
  • They also stressed the importance of quality implementation in order for this work to be successful.

One great way to spread the word about Delaware Pathways is with our new infographic that depicts the student experience throughout middle school and high school. Check it out below, or download the full pdf here.


We also heard a lot of great questions about the draft strategic plan and implementation. As we move forward, we will work to:

  • More explicitly address the opportunities Delaware Pathways creates for all students, including students with disabilities and at-risk students, and the supports available throughout their experience.
  • Make recommendations for how community-based organizations and Delaware Pathways can more seamlessly work together to provide the most meaningful opportunities for students, and connect directly with educators and employers implementing programs of study.
  • Better define how we will measure success in the short- and long-term, and use those measures to continuously improve our implementation.
  • More clearly communicate the benefits of Delaware Pathways programs of study to parents and students, while making it clear how this work aligns with other state programs which aim to prepare students for college and career success.

Couldn’t join us last week? No problem. Read through the full strategic plan or provide additional feedback at Share it with any friends or colleagues who might also be interested in weighing in. The Delaware Pathways team is keeping track of all of this feedback for consideration as we look to finalize our strategic plan this summer.

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