Guest Post: Guidance from the Community College Level

Course Pathways Sample
A sample page from the set of spreadsheets Al describes as “50 course pathway templates: one master for graduation requirements only, then 41 technical program templates, followed by the six transfer and two other community college technical program templates.” He considers these plans as “starting points” to be used in personalized planning.
In my article, “Rethinking High School Pathways” in this month’s Educational Leadership magazine, which the publishers have allowed me to link here without the paywall restriction, I discuss the need to provide alternatives to the one-size-fits-all high school diploma. Personalized guidance counseling is one of the key ingredients for the development of pathways that students can follow to connect their high school level studies to their personal career goals. Too often, high school guidance counselors have little time to do more than ensure students meet minimum, generic high school graduation requirements with a few CTE elective credits thrown in to fill the gaps. I wrote that many of the students I serve need clear pathways to follow into their chosen careers, but that these are often unavailable to those who don’t choose a career requiring a 4 year degree.
Shortly after the article appeared, I received an email from Al Scheider, a community college guidance counselor who has been working to develop individualized pathways that bridge the gap between high school coursework and post-secondary certifications and degrees. I was intrigued by his work, which he described as follows:
“Last year I was hired by our local community college to develop course pathways from every high school in the community college district into every technical program at the college.  I expanded that to also include six types of “transfer pathways” and references to “unique” technical programs at nearby community colleges.”

What if all high school guidance counselors could coordinate with their local community college and technical school guidance counselors to provide clear pathways like this? Even though most of the credits at the high school level must still fulfill broad, generic high school graduation requirements, pathways like this just might clarify the progression enough to keep some of my students motivated to continue.

Pathway to Individualized Focus

submitted by Al Scheider

As an academic adviser for Political Science majors at Illinois State University in 1972-73, the value of one-to-one communication became apparent to me.  During that assignment I also became aware that Political Science majors were in that major for a variety of reasons.  Therefore, I developed seven Poli Sci “career paths”, encouraging particular courses within the department to both “check out” and pursue more specific fields within the political world.

For the next 20 years I worked in a variety of settings.  In a state government agency and a couple of non-profit organizations there were many committee assignments.  From that type of work, I concluded that the bigger the committee, the less effective.  In other words, a two-person committee was much more effective than a seven-person committee.  In my early teaching days, I also learned that disciplinary or academic communications were much more effective when they occurred away from the class (either outside the room or after class).  In all these situations it seemed like the one other person was so much more genuine when not having to impress or “be cool” in front of others.

Finally, in both my training for and experience as a school counselor, the importance and effectiveness of a genuine one-to-one communication has become so apparent to me.  After many years of developing an individualized-focus guidance program, surveys of graduating Seniors exhibited very high rates of satisfaction with that program (over a three-year period, 87% satisfied, 3% unsatisfied).

Twenty-one years after starting to work as a school counselor, I enjoy warm greetings on almost a daily basis from former students and their parents.  I believe that strong positive reaction is attributable to the individualized nature of my program.  Not only did I not assume that any two individuals would follow the same path in school/life, I also tried to meet the diverse needs of each student as best I could.  While the personal needs were too diverse to categorize, some similar academic pathways were developed to give students a starting point to both “check out” and pursue stated career fields of interest.

After years of researching college program requirements, my work culminated in a course pathways project for my local community college.  After studying the curriculum guides for each high school in the community college area, reviewing those guides with the respective school counselors, and consulting with the technical program heads of the college, course pathway spreadsheets were developed for each high school.  Each spreadsheet has 50 templates:  one master for the high school’s graduation requirements, 41 technical program templates leading into AAS/certificate programs at the local community college, two templates for transfer into unique programs at nearby community colleges, and six “academic transfer” templates.  Every student in the area school districts can therefore easily obtain a six-year plan if intending to go to the community college or a 4-by-4 plan if intending a direct-to-university path.  With fifty possible “starting points” for student planning at each school, my basic belief in the unique desires/goals of every student has been at least partially addressed.


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