Multiple Pathways To Graduation: New Routes to High School Completion

May 2010

Concerned about the persistently high dropout rates from big-city secondary schools, education leaders are trying a new approach to increasing the graduation rate—multiple pathways to graduation. Leading districts are creating a variety of schooling options designed to remedy the problems that lead many students to drop out, such as failing key courses, interruptions in schooling caused by personal and family problems or transfers from one district or school to another, or delayed entry into high school. Early results, for example from New York City, suggest that creating multiple pathways to graduation might rescue many students who would otherwise have dropped out of school, and measurably increase a city’s overall graduation rate.

Multiple pathways initiatives are relatively new and far from proven. Even the most advanced examples face significant issues, i.e., the need to demonstrate that students who graduate via multiple pathways are as well prepared as graduates from regular high schools.

However, multiple pathways initiatives are clearly a significant new development, using analysis of student data to provide much better targeted remedies to students’ individual problems than were possible in earlier dropout prevention programs. Multiple pathways initiatives also build on some cities’ efforts to re-mission their whole school districts, so that they search constantly for more effective approaches to instruction and change the mix of schools they offer in light of performance.