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College & Career Pathways

To better prepare District 401 students for success in the 21st-century economy, Elm Middle School, and Elmwood Park High School have reimagined their curricula. 

The result is College & Career Pathways, a comprehensive initiative that extends from 6th grade through 12th grade. The program is focused on better matching the course offerings of middle school and high school with the post-secondary interests of our students.

Through pathway exploration, aligned programs of study and experience-based learning opportunities, students will graduate with well-developed post-secondary plans and a diverse set of skills suited for academic and career success.

Video Overviews

Below are three video introductions to College & Career Pathways:

How the program works in District 401

How the program works at Elm Middle School

How the program works at Elmwood Park High School

How the Pathway Program Works

Starting at Elm Middle School, students will be encouraged to explore a variety of interests aligned to future careers.

As students enter EPHS, they will continue with coursework opportunities that focus in greater depth on college and career pathways of interest to them.

Why Pathways Exploration? 

To assist students with developing their post-secondary plans, Elm and EPHS have worked to align their courses to a variety of career pathways.

Aligned programs of study help students select courses based on their interests and career goals, which enables pathways exploration.

Students benefit from this exploration because it provides them with a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to decide if a specific pathway is a good fit prior to making a post-secondary commitment.

Moreover, pathways exploration allows students to demonstrate their interest, dedication and perseverance in pursuit of their personal goals. Such life-ready skills are the hallmark of a positive transition to post-secondary success, because students are more likely to stick with a pathway rooted in interest, talent and achievement.

In addition, many pathway courses fulfill graduation requirements. Partnering with a school counselor will ensure that individual course selection is in alignment with student interest, meets graduation requirements and leads to well-defined college and career plans.

How the pathways Were Developed

In October and November 2018, the District issued two separate student surveys to Elm and EPHS students to help gather interest on future career-based academic programming.

The first survey ("Career Cluster Inventory") was issued in October 2018. Developed by the Illinois Career Information System, the survey focused on identifying career pathways for students based on their responses of interest to 80 different activities. In all, 765 EPHS students and 386 Elm students responded to this survey.

The second survey ("Courses of Interest") was issued in November 2018. Locally developed, the survey focused on gathering student interest on each of 16 career clusters and 45 different career-based courses. Students were asked to read a brief paragraph explaining each career cluster and provide an interest rating to that pathway. Additionally, each student was asked to read a brief summary of the different courses before issuing an interest rating. In all, 575 EPHS students and 325 Elm students responded to this survey.

Based on these results, Elm and EPHS developed their pathways curricula. The resulting program allows students to explore their interests, whether academic or vocational.

This is not a one-size-fits-all program. Students more interested in vocational training will have the opportunity to enroll in career and technical education (CTE) courses as they move through high school. Likewise, students more interested in college-preparatory subjects will have pathways for choosing more traditional core academic courses.