Expert Insights to Creating Career Pathways with Dual Enrollment

Savvas Insights Team

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The goal of every educator is to equip their students with the knowledge and skills needed to experience success in the classroom and beyond. But what tools and instruction will be most effective in providing the clearest pathway toward a fulfilling career? Many educators are turning to dual enrollment.

We wanted to hear from some of those educators and find out how they are using dual enrollment in their schools and organizations to create those career pathways for their students. So, we held a panel discussion where we asked four educational leaders from four different establishments to share how they use dual-enrollment opportunities to help shape students’ futures.

Meet the Panelists

In order to learn more about how educators are using dual enrollment and other initiatives to help students succeed, we sat down with the following four panelists:

  • Dave Levin, a co-founder of KIPP Public Schools, a national network of tuition-free public schools across 21 states and Washington, DC, is a pioneer in education reform. David's work has been pivotal in shaping public charter schools, innovative teacher development programs, and pathways for college and career readiness across the country.
  • Moses Ojeda, principal of Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Education High School in Queens, New York, started out as a student of the school and is now its principal. Under Moses's leadership ,Edison has flourished to become one of New York City’s premier C.T.E. high schools, offering 13 key course pathways and currently holds the city's top certification pass rate.
  • Dr. Sarah Cherry Rice, executive director and the founder of Digital Ready, a Boston-based organization helping high school students build their own pathways to economic mobility and success in Boston’s innovation economy. Digital Ready is a nonprofit organization at the forefront of integrating digital literacy into the education ecosystem in the Greater Boston area.
  • Dr. Jamiylah Jones, creative director and head of school at the Wellspring Schools in New York City, where they use a creative approach to education with a focus on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship to foster global competitiveness for her students.

We asked them how their schools and organizations are approaching dual enrollment to ensure students exit high school with the skills and education to confidently enter college and a future career. Here’s what they had to say:

Blurring the Lines Between High School, College, and Careers

The panelists believe it is their responsibility as educators to create opportunities that prepare students for career success. But, in order to do that, they recognize that learning doesn’t have to be linear — students can have college and workforce experiences while they’re still in high school.

The panelists agree that providing opportunities to earn college credits and professional certificates through programs like online dual enrollment is a great way to prepare students for college and career while still in high school. Even something like teaching students how to use a Slack channel not only improves communication, but builds a skill that students will need in the workforce.

Along with their online dual enrollment coursework, Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Education High School is one of 10 schools in the Future Ready NYC and Modern Youth Apprenticeship Pilot Program, which allow schools to create new career-connected programs aligned to in-demand, high-wage jobs and/or education programs.

Ojeda, Edison’s principal, says programs like this can create relevance within the high school curriculum that encourages college enrollment and completion.

Dr. Rice says that at Digital Ready, they cultivate partnerships between high schools and higher educational institutions, as well as other educational organizations. She notes that online dual enrollment courses are allowing Digital Ready to tap into new pathways because the dual enrollment program handles much of the behind-the-scenes curriculum and other alignment work necessary to bridge the gap between high school and college.

Jones says that networking amongst other educators and institutions is another essential ingredient to creating connections between high school, college, and ultimately a career. “The way to increase equity and make sure we're reaching all of our students is to network and see how we can help one another,” she said. “That's the only way we're going to win.”

Providing Relevant Coursework

Rice said that when she and her colleagues started Digital Ready, they interviewed over two thousand students and their families to ask them what they can do to provide a better career pathway. And the number one answer they received was: relevant coursework.

Students and families felt that the coursework in high school was designed for current jobs, but not for careers of the future that they will pursue after college, like biotech, virtual reality, and robotics.

“Some of the top leaders of the world are here in Boston,” said Dr. Rice. “Yet students don't see that relevancy between the incredible innovation happening in our city and the coursework they're doing in their high school and college courses.”

So, when Digital Ready designs programs, they make sure that their coursework “creates currency” for students by preparing them for high-wage jobs. They want to provide students with meaningful, useful courses, such as Professional Communication, offered through their online dual enrollment program, that will send them on a pathway to economic freedom.

Ojeda agrees that there can sometimes be a disconnect from the curriculum students are being taught in high school to the jobs that are out there when they leave. That’s why it’s important, he says, for coursework to align to valuable, job-specific skills that students can envision themselves needing in their future careers in order to get them excited and engaged.

“If the student sees that what they're learning is relevant to what they want to do or what they're looking to do in the future, that's the buy in. And for us, we're always looking for that,” he said.

Bridging College to Careers with Dual Enrollment

Since college is the major step toward a career, our four panelists have created many initiatives, including providing dual enrollment courses, to help make college more obtainable for students.

Many of the panelists said that they support their students in obtaining a certain number of college credits before they graduate. For example, at KIPP, Levin said that they encourage students to earn 15 credits before graduation and that online dual enrollment courses have really helped their students achieve that number.

“Early experience helps students through their first years of college,” said Levin. “And data suggests if you get kids through their first couple of years, they'll be much more likely to graduate.”

Ojeda says that because of Edison’s dual enrollment offerings, as well the close relationships it has cultivated with many local higher-ed institutions, the school has a large number of students who apply to college. This has led, for example, to an 88 percent application rate to The City University of New York’s 25 colleges.

“For us at Edison, I think it is crucial to try to get them as close [to college] as possible, before they leave us, with some credits in their pocket,” he said.

Jones said that by taking these dual enrollment courses, not only are students preparing for the rigors of college, but they are also saving money since they have already taken a number of college-level courses that count toward their college credits before they even start their freshman year.

“Parents call to thank us because we saved them a year of tuition, and they don’t have to take any of the introductory courses,” said Jones.

Dual Enrollment Helps Prepare Underrepresented Student Populations for a Successful Future

The panelists agree that dual enrollment programs, along with other school initiatives, give students an idea of what college is like and what kind of demands will be put on them as future college students working toward a career. This particularly helps their underrepresented student populations who may not have parents or other family members who went to college and can serve as role models for getting an associate’s or four-year degree.

Rice emphasizes the importance of allowing students to “try on” college-level coursework at no cost to students or their families. In 2023, Digital Ready partnered with Outlier by Savvas, an online dual enrollment platform, to launch a math pilot program to increase students’ access to college math courses.

The program allowed any Boston public high school student to take math with Digital Ready at no cost to them. Digital Ready served students from 18 different high schools from across the city to earn college credits in algebra, pre calc, and calculus. This gave students, including many from marginalized backgrounds, a sneak peek at what college courses are like while increasing their confidence in the fact that they can thrive in the college classroom.

Overall, our panelists agree that dual enrollment has been a beneficial addition to their schools and organizations. They will continue to use it, along with other initiatives, to provide their students with a pathway toward a future career

Learn More about Outlier Dual Enrollment