|Multiple Pathways and State Policy:
Toward Education and Training
Beyond High School1
A seismic economic shift has changed the rules by which Americans strive to get ahead in society. Hard work, once the bedrock of opportunity, is no longer sufficient, in and of itself, to ensure individual prosperity and security for either individuals or the larger community. The consequence of this new economy, compounded by national demographic changes, is that workforce requirements and civic responsibilities combine to demand ever-increasing, individual knowledge and skills. The education and training that most Americans require to fully participate in our economy and society are not simply education credentials but the specific knowledge and skill levels that the credential implies.
Public policy should recognize these changes by assuring that almost all Americans have access to at least two years of education and training beyond high school. New policies would move toward this goal by engaging the full range of education and training programs, regardless of the education provider, in the creation of multiple pathways resulting from collaborative efforts across educational sectors or redesigned structures.
Multiple pathways do not imply multiple standards-but rather clear standards at various levels and many ways of moving toward the standards. In this sense, we agree with Marc Tucker's conceptualization of multiple pathways as "clear gateways and many flexible paths between these gateways."2
We begin by describing the economic and social imperatives for significantly increasing higher education access and attainment in the population. The second section addresses public policy challenges to achieving this goal. Third, we identify the elements of the public policy infrastructure needed for large-scale educational reform, with particular attention to accountability systems and finance and governance changes. We conclude with observations on the political challenges that must be addressed to extend access to postsecondary education to all.
1Jobs for the Future commissioned this paper for the project, Redesigning High Schools: The Unfinished Agenda in State Education Reform. This two-year project focuses on the issues that states need to address if they are to promote changes in high schools and communities that enable all youth to achieve at a high level. The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Achieve, and the National Conference of State Legislatures are JFF's partners in this effort. JFF's primary role is helping identify key policy issues and preparing issues papers for governors and their policy advisors.
2For more information, see: "High School and Beyond: The System is the Problem and the
Solution," draft paper, Jobs for the Future, October 2002, p. 10.