The application window for 8th graders to choose a personal pathway is now open. Eighth graders who are going to be students next year in the Madison Metropolitan School District can sign up for a pathway at MMSD.org/Pathways or they can get an application at their school.

A new pathway will also be available for 2019-20. Students at Madison La Follette, East and Memorial will have the option of choosing an Information and Technology/Communication pathway (ITC). ITC is expected to be a cutting edge way of learning for students, who will have a chance to gain experience that will be valuable particularly as they enter college as well as a much more technology-based workforce.

“Students are going to have their learning become relevant to the world around them in a new way,” Cynthia Green, executive director of Secondary Programs and Pathways, tells Madison365. “I see them leaving high school with more experiences and credit towards college coursework and industry certifications. We’ve built up the coursework kids will experience to make sure kids have the opportunity to take college-level courses.

“So if people are thinking about ITC beyond high school, we have a partnership with Madison College to make sure kids leave high school with an industry certification,” she adds. “We have partnerships with UW and Edgewood, as well. So kids are getting exposure to what life is like after high school. That is a game changer.”

Things like arts and graphic design will be offered in coursework to students at different high schools. The ITC is in addition to the Health Services pathway that has been highly successful.

“This past year we had about 400 ninth graders enter for health services and we would like to see the same number enter ITC,” Green said. “We want to see about 120 students at each high school per pathway.”

Green said it is important to think of Pathways not as a program but as a new way forward for students.

“In the way we see Pathways, it’s not a program. It’s a new way or different way to do school,” she says. “So what this will mean is our incoming ninth graders will have an option for experiencing a traditional high school or experiencing ITC or Health Services. I’m excited because one of the main goals for us was to think about students post-secondary. What we were learning was that kids were graduating high school and once they were done they didn’t know their plans or next steps after high school. So part of our Pathways goal is for kids to leave with really strong post-secondary education plans.”

The University of Wisconsin, Edgewood College and Madison College have played a big role in the early success of Pathways. Each institution offers students campus tours and opportunities through community partners to see what the college experience will be like. UW has offered a summer program where Pathways students are able to explore Health Services and UW level coursework.

“Each institution has designed coursework and experiences for kids in the Pathway,” Green said. “And I think this is what is unique about Pathways. These institutions, as well as our four community partners, are anchors. Which means these students are having opportunities for some different experiences than what the average child in the traditional high school can get. So they create great experiences for the students. It’s about students getting experiential learning.”

Green says that their data shows students who are African-American that choose a Pathway have had great success when compared to their peers from outside of Pathways. Pathways, while open to any student, has been of great help to children of color in particular, who may have not traditionally seen a life for themselves after high school in places like UW or Madison College.

The Personalized Pathways program was expanded by the MMSD School Board in a December 2018 vote and Green says the addition of the ITC Pathway is going to bring a very unique and new way for kids to succeed in college and in virtually any job after school.

The application window for Pathways is open until all the seats are filled. Eighth graders who want to make sure they have priority should apply by January 16. But applications will continue to be accepted after that.

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