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Endorsements signal D214 student readiness

Published December 15, 2022

For a student, earning a Pathway Endorsement is a lot like earning a driver’s license: Just like a driver’s license is a signal to the world that a student has put in hard work on multiple fronts, and is ready to get behind the wheel, a Pathway Endorsement signals to colleges and prospective employers that a student is ready for postsecondary success in a chosen field.

What is a Pathway Endorsement? It’s recognition from the state of Illinois that a student has completed all facets of a career pathway at District 214. That includes taking a series of courses in a career pathway that include six hours of early high school credit, participating in team-based challenges and other career development activities and gaining work-based learning experience through an internship or apprenticeship. In addition, the student must demonstrate postsecondary readiness in English and math.

“The beauty of the Pathway Endorsement is that it really speaks to the full experience in a career pathway. It recognizes that all of these pieces are important,” said Megan Kelly, District 214 director of academic programs and pathways. “It honors everything a student is doing as a high school student in preparation for what’s ahead.”

“If a student is earning or pursuing an Endorsement, it means they’re pursuing post-secondary success. And when they earn that Endorsement, they are ready.”

The College & Career Pathway Endorsement system was created in 2016 as part of Illinois’ Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act. The Illinois State Board of Education awarded just a handful of Pathway Endorsements to students in 2020 and 2021, but the number is growing rapidly—to more than 500 in 2022. District 214 accounted for more than 200 of those Endorsements, presented last spring to both graduating seniors and some juniors who had already met the requirements. To recognize their achievement, students receive a Pathway Endorsement seal on their diplomas.

Said Dr. Lazaro Lopez, associate superintendent for teaching and learning, “Endorsements are an affirmation of a student's persistence in completing a pathway of study that includes real-world work experiences, early college credit, and the knowledge to make informed choices about their future.”

District 214 is working to help students complete items on the Pathway Endorsement checklist, by making sure career pathway courses align with the state requirements—for instance, embedding career development activities in all orientation courses. In addition, the District continues to expand its selection of internships and apprenticeships that offer opportunities for work-based learning experiences. Students in the District’s apprenticeship program, for instance, automatically meet many of the criteria that would  qualify them for an Endorsement.

Earning a Pathway Endorsement already is providing tangible benefits to students, Kelly says. Harper College, for instance, is waiving its First Year Seminar requirement for District 214 graduates with a Pathway Endorsement. And for those education students who apply for a Golden Apple scholarship, having an Education Pathway Endorsement moves them instantly to the final round of the scholarship competition.

There are other benefits, too. “What we hear from counselors is that when students are applying to college, or writing a resumé, the Pathway Endorsement gives them a framework to talk clearly about what they did in high school—and that sets them above the rest,” Kelly said.

“Earning a Pathway Endorsement is proof that a student has fully embraced and participated in our Career Pathway program, and reaped all the benefits,” she said. “It’s another example of how focusing on what comes next for these students is what sets District 214 apart.”