Mapping K14 Pathways
In 2018, WestEd began mapping career and technical education offerings between K12 districts, community colleges, and regional or state labor markets for state and regional systems. The proportional analysis provides a view of how closely career offerings in high schools and community colleges align with each other, as well whether these pathways lead to available high demand, living wage jobs in the region. To our knowledge, this is the first time this kind of alignment study has been performed at this scale.
The analysis found significant gaps exist between offerings in high school Perkins-funded career pathways, college programs, and employment opportunities. For example, in one region, a third of the 1,700 high school career courses were in digital photography and digital media. The same sector only accounted for only 5% of offerings in regional community colleges and less than 3% of jobs in the regional labor market. Conversely, only 3% of regional high school offerings were in business and finance, which accounts for 14% of regional college awards and a quarter of regional jobs.
The findings from these studies are intended to identify opportunities for improved alignment between educational systems and labor markets in ways that elevate the particular challenges that marginalized communities encounter, while also strengthening K14 career pathways, and providing baseline data to inform the comprehensive local needs assessments required under Perkins V. In recent years, this work has expanded to new states such as Utah and Nevada and now includes pathways through bachelors degrees. As an additional benefit, WestEd is providing interactive data tools for state and regional systems including pivot tables, GIS program maps, and interactive Tableau dashboards that can strengthen planning and improve alignment in support of student success.
Mapping Community College Transfer Patterns
In 2014-15, California began to award associate degrees that offer guaranteed transfer pathways to public four-year universities. In 2019, WestEd compared the volume of associate degrees earned to the number of students who successfully transferred. The study found that while completion of associate degrees for transfer had increased dramatically, the number of students who transferred had increased only modestly. Furthermore, many of the most popular associate degrees for transfer are in disciplines that are over-subscribed in the state’s public universities. Finally, the majority of associate degrees for transfer are in social science and humanities fields, as opposed to pathways that lead directly to high-demand, high wage jobs such as STEM and health.
WestEd is currently working in one of the most populated regions in California to extend this transfer analysis by providing college-level results, highlighting equity gaps, and documenting outcomes related to bachelor’s degree attainment, aimed toward supporting improved intersegmental planning and alignment.