College & Career Pathways to Open New Opportunities for D401 Students

Students in Mr. Yatin Brahmbhatt's Sports Medicine and Management class practice taking a blood pressure reading.

Students in Mr. Yatin Brahmbhatt's Sports Medicine and Management class use hands-on learning to develop their skills. The new course is one of several introduced this year at EPHS as part of the College and Career Pathways program. (D401 photo by Dave Porreca)

NOTE: To listen to a conversation with Elm and EPHS administrators about the College and Career Pathways program, click here for Episode 14 of the "Parkside Chat" podcast hosted and produced by Ms. Jessica Iovinelli. All quotes in this article can be found in that episode and in Episode 17 (concerning off-campus learning opportunities).

It's Aug. 14, the opening day of school, and the students in Mr. David Parolin's Intro to Journalism class at Elmwood Park High School are already planning the first issue of The Tiger newspaper for 2019-20. 

As Mr. Parolin looks on, ready to offer advice whenever needed, students gather around a whiteboard to discuss story ideas. 

They quickly fill the board with newsworthy items — top students, academic awards, teacher of the week, major school issue of the week and more.

The discussion is vigorous and lively, with students taking the lead. Through their give and take, the fledgling journalists begin to learn what it means to put together a news publication. 

And through this process, perhaps without even realizing it, they also illustrate what District 401's new College and Career Pathways program looks like in action — a student-driven, experience-based learning opportunity that will prepare them for success in a diverse array of fields.   

Intro to Journalism is just one of several new courses implemented this year as part of the Pathways program, a comprehensive initiative that will encompass grades 6-12 beginning next school year. Although many pieces are already in place, the program will fully launch in August 2020, when the expansion and renovation of Elm Middle School is completed.

A member of Mr. David Parolin's Intro to Journalism class brainstorm ideas for the first 2019-20 issue of The Tiger online newspaper.

PHOTO: A member of Mr. David Parolin's Intro to Journalism class writes down story ideas for The Tiger online newspaper. Click image for larger view (D401 photo by Dave Porreca).

Education for the 21st Century

The goal of College and Career Pathways is to better prepare D401 students to compete and succeed in the ever-changing global economy. 

The program will do this by offering students exploratory opportunities aligned to their potential post-secondary interests and pursuits, which will be identified by career interest surveys given annually at both Elm and EPHS.

Career Clusters

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

Student interests were organized within a framework of 16 nationally recognized "career clusters" — that is, groups of occupations and industries that share a foundational set of knowledge and skills.


Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

Education & Training

Hospitality & Tourism


Architecture & Construction


Human Services

Marketing, Sales & Service

Arts, A/V Technology & Communications

Government & Public Administration

Information Technology

Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Business Management & Administration

Health Science

Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security

Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

The first survey given last year ("Career Cluster Inventory") used questions developed by the Illinois Career Information System to identify career interests based on student response to 80 different activities. In all, 765 EPHS students and 386 Elm students responded.

The second survey ("Courses of Interest") was developed locally and gathered student interest in each of 16 career clusters and 45 different career-based courses.

Based on the initial surveys, the program's offerings were developed with the goal of eventually providing opportunities for students to take courses within any of the career clusters, either on campus or off campus.

► Career Pathways

Each cluster contains multiple career pathways. A "career pathway" is a multi-year program of academic and technical study that prepares students for a full range of post-secondary options within each cluster. 

For example, the Arts, A/V Technology & Communications cluster includes career pathways such as 2D/3D art, photography, acting/drama, band/choir and writer/author.

These pathways in turn provide a context for students to explore post-secondary options such as graphic design, journalism, photography, filmmaking, public relations, illustration, animation, broadcasting, fashion design, acting and musical performance — to name just a few. 

Students in middle school will initially learn about the various pathways through career study courses specifically designed for that purpose. (See below for more information: "How the Program Will Work — Middle School.")

Career Academies

By the time they reach high school, students will be able to explore individual pathways in much greater detail by taking courses in both on-campus and off-campus career academies. 

"Career academies" are collections of educational programs that organize the 16 career clusters into specific academic programs. 

In 2020-21, EPHS will have three on-campus career academies: Business & Technology, Arts & Communication and Science & Health Services. (See below for more information: "How the Program Will Work — High School.")

Other career academies will be located off campus at Triton College, Benedictine University and the Technology Center of DuPage (TCD). The Triton and TCD classes will be taken on their respective campuses, while Benedictine courses will be online. (See below for more information: "Off-Campus Pathway Opportunities.")

► Counseling and Planning

For all students, these exploratory opportunities will be accompanied by individualized counseling at each grade level, 6-12. Students will begin planning their individual roadmaps while at Elm. They will continue to revisit and refine their plans as EPHS students.

The combination of pathway exploration and personalized counseling will link student learning to the knowledge and skills needed for future education and employment.

In short, College and Career Pathways is education for the 21st century, where those who succeed will be those whose schooling has given them the substantive knowledge and adaptive skills to thrive in the midst of changing circumstances.

Students can explore the career pathway of athletic trainer in Mr. Yatin Brahmbhatt's Sports Medicine and Management course.

PHOTOS: Students can explore the career pathway of athletic trainer in Mr. Yatin Brahmbhatt's Sports Medicine course. The class is offered as part of the high school's Science & Health Services Academy. Click images for larger view (D401 photos by Dave Porreca).

A student checks the reflexes of another student in the Sports Medicine and Management class.

How the Program Will Work — Middle School

Starting at Elm, students will be encouraged to begin exploring a variety of interests aligned to future careers.

► First Two Years: General Exposure

In 6th and 7th grades, this means general exposure to multiple pathways through 30-minute, 12-week-long pass/fail career study classes as well as career pathway electives. 

"Our 6th and 7th graders are going to experience everything," said Ms. Rebecca Siegel, Elm principal. "We want to give them an opportunity to experience as many different careers as possible, but not just careers that are current but things that will prepare them for their future."

► Third Year: Focus Begins to Sharpen

In 8th grade, students will continue to take career study classes and pathway electives. But their exploration will become more focused as each student completes a career pathways roadmap and meets with a high school counselor to plan the next phase in the course selection process. 

"We don't expect them to know by 8th grade," said Ms. Siegel, "but they're going to start getting choices in 8th grade as far as what they can pick for career studies and for electives."

► All Three Years: Career Study Classes & Core Curriculum

By the time they finish 8th grade, the career study classes will have given Elm students a varied overview of post-secondary options.

Currently, 22 such classes are scheduled to be offered next year, with at least one in each of the school's core subject areas. The classes are listed in the table below.


Art | Animation

General | Life Management Skills

Social Studies | Criminal Justice

Art | Art in World Cultures

Kinetic Wellness | Nutrition and

Social Studies | Human and Social

Business | Entrepreneurship

Kinetic Wellness | First Aid/CPR

Social Studies | Law and Order

Business | Hospitality and Tourism

Math | Life Budgeting

Social Studies | National Security

Business | International Business

Music | Exploring Music

Social Studies | Personal Psychology

English | Creative Writing

Music | Music Appreciation

Social Studies | Sociology

English | Journalism

Science | Agriscience


General | Career Exploration

Social Studies | Anthropology


"We use those career interest surveys for our students to be able to drive what these courses are going to look like," said Ms. Ashley Groeneveld, Elm assistant principal.

"And with that information," she continued, "students will be selecting and having choice and really being in the driver's seat for their education."

The career study classes will be in addition to the core curriculum that all Elm students will pursue in the subjects of English language arts, math, science and social studies.

► Getting Ready for the Transition

To prepare for next year's full-scale implementation of the program, Elm has already added its own college and career counselor, Mr. Jason Weiss.

In addition, October was College and Career Month at the school, and other related activities are planned throughout the year, including a new round of career interest surveys.

The Elm administration has also been working closely with the District’s two elementary schools, Elmwood and John Mills, to make sure current 5th and 6th graders are ready to take full advantage of the Pathways program when they start middle school in August 2020.

How the Program Will Work — High School

Even before they leave Elm, students will begin working with EPHS counselors to ensure they construct a roadmap for their high school years.

"We will revisit that every year in the spring," said Mr. Douglas Wildes, EPHS principal. "We'll talk with the students, with the counselors, the teachers and the families about the pathway that they're on, whether or not they want to continue with that pathway or potentially switch to another one."

Throughout their time at EPHS, students will focus on college and career pathways of interest to them via courses marked by significant depth and standards-based rigor.

In general, students will be able to take one of four main approaches while in high school: college pathway, career pathway, both college and career pathways or general study.

► College Pathway Approach | Distinguished Scholar Distinction

For some students, the best fit will be a college pathway filled with AP, dual-credit and/or honors courses — a traditional road to a four-year postsecondary institution.

This college-bound route, long a staple at EPHS, not only remains in place but is being strengthened by the addition of new AP classes and the option of taking online undergraduate-level, dual-credit courses at Benedictine University. (See below for more information: "New Courses — High School.")

Students in this pathway who complete at least 10 or more AP/dual-credit/honors courses with a C or better will also have the opportunity to earn a diploma with a "Distinguished Scholar Distinction" awarded at graduation. (See below for more information: "New Graduation Requirements — High School.")

► Career Pathway Approach | Career Pathway Distinction

For others, the best way forward will be to focus on a career pathway, completing at least 5.0 credits within one specific pathway program of study.

This can be done on campus by pursing a program of study in one the school's three career academies.

Or it can be done off campus, where EPHS students can earn dual credits and even professional certification at Triton College or the Technology Center of DuPage. (See below for more information: "Off-Campus Career Opportunities.")

Students in this pathway will also have the opportunity to earn a diploma with a "Career Pathway Distinction." (See below for more information: "New Graduation Requirements — High School.")

► College and Career Pathways Combined Approach | Dual Distinctions

For still other students, the most satisfying approach will be to combine both pathways — college and career — instead of choosing one or the other.

Since many AP or honors courses can also be taken as part of a career pathway program of study, that's good news for students with college ambitions and a specific career interest. They can pursue both, so long as the career pathway they're interested in is available through EPHS.

Students who take the combined approach will have the opportunity to earn a diploma with both a "Distinguished Scholar Distinction" and a "Career Pathway Distinction." (See below for more information: "New Graduation Requirements — High School.")

► General Studies Approach | General Studies Distinction

Finally, some students might not be ready to commit to either the college pathway or a specific career pathway.

In that case, the most effective use of their opportunities might be to experiment with several pathway possibilities in search of the best fit, whether or not that involves college or a clear career choice.

This general studies approach calls for the student to complete all EPHS core curriculum and other requirements for graduation, including electives, but it doesn't mandate that the student concentrate on a single pathway. 

Students who complete all graduation requirements but who have not completed enough courses within a specific pathway sequence to be eligible for Distinguished Scholar or Career Pathway Distinction will receive a diploma with a "General Studies Distinction." (See below for more information: "New Graduation Requirements — High School.")

► All Four Years: Student Driven

Whatever the case, the program's offerings will be tailored to the students as determined by their own interests, skills and passions. Like Elm, the high school will survey students each year to make sure the program remains responsive to their postsecondary interests and needs.

"Because we're a unit district, we have a unique opportunity to figure out what kids want and are interested in at the 6th-grade level and kind of build upon that as they get through middle school and up into the high school," said Ms. Kyleen Coia, EPHS assistant principal.

"Really this is student driven, driven by their interests," she continued, "and it's not something that we're just doing off the cuff. We're really trying to go based upon what students want to do."

On-Campus Career Opportunities

Beginning in August 2020, EPHS students will be able to explore pathways in three on-campus career academies. These academies are listed in the table below.


Business & Technology Academy (BTA)

Arts & Communications Academy (ACA)

Science & Health Services Academy (SHSA)

Career Clusters

  • Business Management & Administration
  • Finance
  • Information Technology
  • Marketing

Career Cluster

  • Arts, Audio/Video
    Technology & Communications 

Areas of Emphasis

  • Visual Arts
  • Performing Arts
  • Communication

Career Clusters

  • Government & Public Administration
  • Health Sciences
  • Human Services

To illustrate how this would work in practice, consider a student who might want to learn about becoming an athletic trainer. Exploring this pathway would entail taking a mix of college and career courses within the Science & Health Services Academy (SHSA).

Possible SHSA classes for this student would include Intro to Health Careers, Nutrition and Wellness, Individual Fitness, Sports Medicine and Management, Anatomy and Physiology, AP Biology and AP Chemistry.

The student would also have the option of interning as an athletic trainer and taking related electives like Strength & Conditioning or Group Fitness.

Students practice their skills in Sports Medicine and Management.

PHOTOS: Classes such as Sports Medicine & Management, shown here above and below, will be among the offerings available in the Science & Health Services Academy. Sports Medicine made its debut this year at EPHS. Click images for larger view (D401 photos by Dave Porreca).

Students practice their skills in Sports Medicine and Management.

Off-Campus Career Opportunities

In all, eight of the 16 nationally recognized career clusters will be represented in the three on-campus academies. The other clusters will be represented in off-campus academies at Triton College in River Grove and the Technology Center of DuPage (TCD) in Addison.


Triton College, River Grove, IL

Career Pathway

  • Automotive Engine Repair

Career Pathway

  • Criminal Justice

Technology Center of DuPage, Addison, IL

Career Pathways

  • Auto Body Repair
  • Computer Information Systems & Game Design
  • Construction Trades
  • Cosmetology
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Electronics Technology
  • Fire Science/EMT
  • Healthcare Foundations

Career Pathways

  • Heating, Ventilation, AC & Refrigeration
  • Nursing Assistant Training
  • Manufacturing
  • Multimedia & Television Production
  • Professional Cooking, Baking & Service
  • Project Lead the Way: Pathway to Engineering
  • Residential Wiring
  • Welding Technology

► Triton and TCD Programs

In cooperation with District 401, Triton this year offers career pathway courses to EPHS students in automotive engine repair and criminal justice.

TCD offers pathway programs in fire science/EMT, nursing assistant, early childhood education, HVAC & refrigeration, multimedia & television production, computer information systems & game design, and construction trades. 

Future TCD programs for EPHS students will include auto body repair, cosmetology, electronics technology, pathway to engineering (Project Lead the Way), professional cooking, baking & service, residential wiring and welding technology.

► Benefits of Off-Campus Learning

For students currently enrolled in TCD courses, the District provides bus transportation to the DuPage County campus. They leave around 11:15 a.m. each day and return by 2:45 p.m. The dual-credit courses are free to the students. 

Senior Samantha Hickey is enrolled in the fire science/EMT program. It’s proven to be an ideal fit for Samantha given her career interests.

"Before this was even offered to us, I wanted to become a paramedic," she said. "It's a jumpstart to what I want to do — and it's free. It gives us credits for high school and for college, and I knew I couldn't miss this great opportunity."

To learn more about what it's like taking TCD classes while still an EPHS student, listen to interviews with Samantha and two of her fellow seniors, Mia Morales and Ayah Obeidalla, click here for "Parkside Chat" Episode 17 hosted and produced by Ms. Jessica Iovinelli. 

New Schedules

To give students greater opportunities to take courses that reflect their post-secondary interests, both Elm and EPHS will change their bell schedules starting in 2020-21.

Currently both schools follow a block schedule, featuring four 80-minute classes at Elm and four 85-minute classes at EPHS. (These classes are supplemented by shorter exploratory and advisory periods at Elm and by an academic lab at EPHS.)

Beginning in August 2020, these schools will shift to the following schedules, with slots for advisory, lunch and up to seven classes. The new schedules are listed in the table below.




7:55-7:59 a.m.


7:50-8 a.m.

Period 1

8:03-8:53 a.m.

Period 1

8:05-8:55 a.m.

Period 2

8:57-9:47 a.m.

Period 2

9-9:50 a.m.

Period 3

9:51-10:41 a.m.

Period 3

9:55-10:45 a.m.

Period 4A

10:45-11:15 a.m.

Period 4A

10:50-11:15 a.m.

Period 4B

11:19-11:49 a.m.

Period 4B

11:20-11:45 a.m.

Period 4C

11:53 a.m.-12:23 p.m.

Period 4C

11:50 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Period 5

12:27-1:17 p.m.

Period 5

12:20-1:10 p.m.

Period 6

1:21-2:11 p.m.

Period 6

1:15-2:05 p.m.

Period 7

2:15-3:05 p.m.

Period 7

2:10-3 p.m.

Also new at Elm will be the trimester system. Trimesters are currently in place at the Early Childhood Center. They will also be adopted at Elmwood and John Mills, but the high school will continue to use the quarter system.

► Closer Look at Elm's New Schedule

Elm students will have room for six 50-minute classes (periods 1-3, 5-7), one 30-minute career study class (4A, 4B or 4C) and one 30-minute session that can be used for study hall or academic/social-emotional supports (4A, 4B or 4C). Four of the six 50-minute classes will be for core subjects (English, math, science, social studies) and two for expanded exploratory options.

Additionally, the middle school's move to a trimester system will give students even more opportunities for exploring career options.

"So our students are going to get their four core classes," said Ms. Siegel. "And then they’re going to have a 30-minute, 12-week-long course on career studies. So they'll get three of those per year and then move into their electives. They'll have six opportunities for electives. So we're expanding their exposure so they have more opportunities to experience what they might be interested in."

► Closer Look at EP's New Schedule

At the high school, meanwhile, students will have room for seven 50-minute classes per day, plus time for academic or social-emotional intervention if needed.

"Much like the middle school, we’ll have the four course subjects of English, math, science and social studies basically all four years," said Mr. Wildes. "But what we're really excited about is the opportunity for kids to explore career pathways."

He continued: "Each year kids will have one, two, three, even four courses they can take where they can pursue an elective or a college or career pathway option. And so the seven-period schedule really opens up the opportunities for our kids to really dive into their interests."

As noted above, EPHS will remain on the quarter system, with fall and spring semesters.

New Courses — Middle School

In response to the career interest surveys that students took last fall and will continue to take annually, both schools have already begun offering new courses — and they will be adding more over the next several years.

"So the high school teachers as well as the middle school teachers have done a ton of background work to get courses available and ready for students with career pathways in mind," said Ms. Coia.

► Acceleration Opportunities

At the middle school, changes for this year include subject-area acceleration in English language arts and math, including English 9 Honors and Core Plus Math I. Other high school-level offerings consist of Civics and Spanish I. 

By 2020-21, Elm's regular courses will include Robotics and Engineering. An accelerated course, Honors Biology, will be added as a high school-level class in science.

These changes for Elm students are in addition to the extensive menu of career study courses mentioned above. (See "How the Program Will Work — Middle School.")

► Linked Pathways

When developing the career study classes, Elm's faculty and administration made it a point to connect the new offerings with what their students would encounter in 9th grade and above.

"What we've done is backwards-mapped all of those classes for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders so they will be able to get exposure to any of the information they're going to be getting in the career pathways at the high school," said Ms. Groeneveld.

"So it really does blend together for our students to be able to fluidly move on to the high school from the middle school to ensure success and an easy transition in their learning."

Kathy Fuentes teaches English 9 Honors, a new accelerated course at Elm Middle School.

PHOTOS: Above, Ms. Kathy Fuentes teaches her English 9 Honors class, a new accelerated opportunity at Elm Middle School. Below, a student in English 9 Honors writes a journal entry in response to Ms. Fuentes' prompt. Click images for larger view (D401 photos by Dave Porreca).

A student in English 9 Honors writes a journal entry.

New Courses — High School

In response to student interest, new courses such as Journalism, Sports Medicine and Management, Competitive Sports, Photography, Intro to Acting and Theater, Financial Math, Transitional Math and AP Calculus B/C were introduced this year at the high school. 

► More Courses on the Way

"In 2020-21, we're going to continue to expand upon those career pathways and make sure that we are allowing kids to kind of follow their dreams within that career," Ms. Coia said. 

New courses next year will include AP Psychology, Criminal Justice, Business Law, Computer Programming, AP Spanish Language, Advanced Ceramics and Sculpture, Intro to Health Careers and AP Music Theory. 

"So as you can see, we're trying to hit a wide plethora of career course offerings," Ms. Coia said.

► More Dual-Credit Opportunities

Dual-credit courses allow students to receive credit that can be applied toward both their high school diploma and a college or university degree. Students don't need to attend the college or university from which dual credit is received in order to earn college credit for those courses.

EPHS has long had a dual-credit partnership with Triton College. This will continue under the Pathways program. 

What's new is that students will also be able to take online courses for dual credit with Benedictine University. Currently these offerings consist of the following:

  • American History 1865- Present
  • British Literature
  • Astronomy

Dual credit is also available for career pathway courses at the Technology Center of DuPage. (See above for more information: "Off-Campus Career Opportunities.")

Jessica Pagan takes a photo during Photography class.

PHOTOS: Junior Jessica Pagan (above) and senior Emilee Lopez (below) are two of the 23 students in Ms. Rosemary Palczynski's Photography class at Elmwood Park High School. Photography is one of several new courses at EPHS this year, and it's offered as part of the Arts & Communication Academy. Click images for a larger view (D401 photos by Dave Porreca).

Emily takes a photo during Photography class.

New Promotion Requirements — Middle School

Along with new courses, Elm and EPHS have revised their promotion and graduation requirements, respectively.

"With all of the new changes we have solidified promotion requirements for our 8th graders," said Ms. Groeneveld. "Those requirements include successful completion of all of their core course work and completion of a Pathways roadmap."

Specifically, Elm now has four main promotion requirements:

  • Successful completion of core coursework
  • Successful completion of Pathways roadmap
  • Successful completion of state-mandated requirements
  • Successful completion of "I Believe" speech

Ms. Groeneveld said Elm students will work on their roadmaps throughout their 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade years. 

"And then they'll be able to take that to the high school to be able to continue on their pathway with their counselors and their teachers at the high school," she said.

As noted above, 8th graders will also write an "I Believe" speech as part of their promotion requirements. Students with the best speeches, as determined by a detailed grading rubric, will deliver their orations at Elm's graduation ceremony. 

An Elm student delivers a speech during the school's 2019 graduation ceremony.

PHOTO: Eleanor Zagroba, now an EPHS freshman, addresses her classmates at Elm Middle School's 2019 commencement ceremony. All Elm students must write and deliver an "I Believe" speech as part of the school's promotion requirements. Students with the best speeches are selected to speak at graduation. Click image for larger view (D401 photo by Dave Porreca).

New Graduation Requirements — High School

Under the high school's new graduation requirements, the current EPHS requirement of 26 credits will be changed to 25 credits for the Class of 2024 (next year's freshmen) and beyond.

"Moving to the seven-period schedule, we've looked at wanting to try to open up more opportunities for kids, giving them the flexibility to take courses that they're more interested in than the traditional four years of this, four years of that," said Mr. Wildes. "We really want them to start owning it on things they're interested in and that drive them."

Each semester-long class will count as 0.5 credit and each year-long class will count as 1.0 credit (0.5 credit for each semester successfully completed).

In addition, there will be three possible graduation distinctions for students to receive based on the courses they successfully complete:

  • General Studies
  • Career Pathway
  • Distinguished Scholar

The minimum graduation requirements, regardless of distinctions, are listed in the table below.


CLASS OF 2020-23



5.0 credits

4.0 credits


3.0 credits

3.0 credits


3.0 credits

3.0 credits

Social Studies

3.0 credits

3.0 credits

Physical Education *
* Will become Kinetic Wellness

4.0 credits

2.0 credits

Fine Arts

1.0 credit

1.0 credit


2.0 credits

1.0 credit

Additional Courses

5.0 credits

8.0 credits


26.0 credits

25.0 credits

The new requirements were approved by the Board of Education on Oct. 16.

Students will receive a diploma with a General Studies Distinction if they have completed all graduation requirements but have not completed enough courses within a sequence to receive the Distinguished Scholar or Career Pathway Distinctions.

To receive a diploma with a Career Pathway Distinction, a student must:

  • Complete at least 5.0 credits within one specific Career Pathway
  • Complete the Career Pathway Capstone course

To receive a diploma with a Distinguished Scholar Distinction, a student must:

  • Complete 10 or more honors/dual credit/AP courses with a C or better
  • Meet/exceed English and math standards on the state test (SAT) and/or
  • Receive a 3 or better on at least two Advanced Placement exams

With the necessary credits, a student can earn a diploma with both a Career Pathway Distinction and Distinguished Scholar Distinction.

The 2019 EPHS valedictorian delivers a speech at the school's graduation ceremony in May.

PHOTO: Class of 2019 valedictorian Kristopher Diallo speaks at Elmwood Park High School's graduation ceremony last May. Under the school's new graduation requirements, students may be awarded a diploma with one or more distinctions listed: Distinguished Scholar, Career Pathway, General Studies or both Distinguished Scholar and Career Pathway. Click image for larger view (D401 photo by Dave Porreca).

What If Students Change Their Mind?

As District 401 administrators developed the College and Career Pathways program, they understood that the career interests of many people change over time. So how does the program take this into account? 
"Providing the foundation at the middle school level will hopefully guide some of their interests," said Ms. Coia, "so that by the time they get to the high school they may have more of a solidified idea of what they’re interested in studying."

She continued: "However, I think we know that kids change their minds. We all change our minds as adults, too. So part of our [new] graduation requirements is to ensure that students have eight opportunities to take elective course work."

As noted above (see the table containing the new EPHS graduation requirements), students in the Class of 2024 and beyond will be required to take eight credits of "Additional Courses" instead of the current five credits. 

"That's a ton of room to wiggle, to change, to find something new, to discover a new passion, change their courses, to do any of that," Ms. Coia said. 

"So we're not afraid to change. Kids can change their minds, and we have afforded them that opportunity within the graduation requirements."

Journalism students plan the first issue of The Tiger for 2019-20.

PHOTOS: Intro to Journalism, another new course this year, allows students to explore the career pathway of journalist by producing their own newspaper, The Tiger. Taking the class doesn't bind a student to journalism — but they do learn a variety of skills applicable to many other different pathways. Above, students plan the first issue of The Tiger for 2019-20. Below is the result — click the image to see the complete issue (D401 photos by Dave Porreca).

The Tiger student newspaper, Issue 1, September 2019

Building on Success

The College and Career Pathways program represents in many respects the next logical step for District 401 under the leadership of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nicolas D. Wade and the Board of Education.

The product of several years of research and planning, the program builds upon other major changes already implemented throughout the District. These include: 

  • The implementation of 1:1 computing for grades 7-12 
  • The saturation of grades 1-6 with internet-connected devices
  • The use of e-texts in all grades
  • The adoption of new standards-aligned curricula such as STEMscopes, GO Math!, ReadyGEN and MyPerspectives in core subject areas
  • The expansion of enrichment opportunities for grades K-2 and more time for accelerated opportunities in the elementary buildings
  • The implementation of a comprehensive social-emotional learning curriculum in all grades
  • The expansion of student services to include a transition program at the high school, the hiring of full-time psychologists, occupational therapists and behavioral specialists, and the implementation of a co-teaching environment at all grade levels
  • The delivery of comprehensive professional development and the establishment of professional learning communities (PLCs) for faculty and staff  
  • The adoption of full-day kindergarten, to take effect in August 2020
  • The renovation and expansion of Elm Middle School, so that 6th graders will become part of the school starting in August 2020

Viewed together, these changes have resulted in the District having a K-12 curriculum that is fully articulated across and within subject areas and grade levels. In this coordinated instructional environment, D401 students receive a seamless learning experience as they progress from course to course and grade to grade.

The implementation of the College and Career Pathways program takes this articulation to a new level for grades 6-12. Annual research on student career interests helps to shape the instruction and curricula, which are then connected, linked and coordinated to provide students with maximum opportunities for postsecondary success.

The result is an ideal meshing of long-term vision and daily classroom practice.

"It fits perfectly into our mission and vision about inspiring minds in the pursuit of excellence," said Ms. Groeneveld, "because we're giving our students the autonomy and the ownership in their learning to be able to move forward and create their own excellence in their education."

EPHS students walk in the school hallways between classes.

PHOTOS: When students walk the hallways of EPHS (above) and Elm (below) beginning in August 2020, they will have a full range of College and Career Pathways opportunities available to them. Click images for larger view (D401 photos by Dave Porreca).

Elm students walk in the school hallways between classes.

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