Key Takeaways

  • Students in Accelerated Pathways can explore their interests while earning valuable work experience, certifications, and credentials that lead to successful futures.
  • Accelerated Pathways give students a head start on their futures by allowing them to pursue their unique interests while saving time and money.


High school students deserve the opportunity to explore their interests and gain valuable real-world experience while saving time and money. With Accelerated Pathways, learners move past imagining success and instead experience success through curated learning experiences such as early college, boot camps, dual enrollment, earn-and-learn ladders, technical training and apprenticeships. These clearly articulated pathways enable opportunities to reduce one or even two years of college and cut costs.


Accelerated Pathways are designed to help students progress through their education at a faster pace, or personalized pace, rather than within the confines of traditional timelines. These pathways are designed to provide students with opportunities to accelerate their learning and complete their education more quickly, whether through advanced coursework, credit recovery, dual enrollment, or other means.

As students and parents investigate whether college still makes sense for them, through Accelerated Pathways experiences, students can hone durable skills useful in all aspects of their future careers. The labor shortages, the rising cost of higher education, the increase in student choice and the decrease in student engagement all necessitate a multifaceted approach that no longer prepares students for a lifetime of work but instead a lifetime of learning. Early access to rigorous coursework, industry credentials and family-sustainable incomes creates equitable opportunities for students to accelerate and co-author their learning. 

College Credit 

Accelerated high school pathways include free (or low cost) college credit opportunities. 

Nearly 1.2 million US students in the class of 2023 took more than 4.1 million Advanced Placement exams. Many of them were able to convert some of those AP classes into college credit. Some colleges award credit for International Baccalaureate courses. 

About 2 million students in the class of 2023 earned college credit through dual enrollment courses–a 300% increase in 20 years. A large majority of these enrollments were through local community colleges. Delivery is either on the college campus or, increasingly, by a college certified instructor on a high school campus. A small but growing percentage of dual enrollment is online ASU Universal Learner Courses 

Dual enrollment not only accelerates the time it takes to earn a degree but also exposes students to the rigor and expectations of college-level coursework. There’s strong evidence that dual enrollment improves high school completion, college enrollment, and college completion rates. 

Early College and P-TECH

The most ambitious dual enrollment programs combine grades 9-14 into fully articulated and supported four (and sometimes five) year courses of study. Launched in 2002, the Early College High School initiative sponsored hundreds of new academies that allowed students to earn an associate degree along with their high school diploma with a mixture of college in the high school, college classes on campus, and online college credit courses. There are more than 1,100 early college programs.

In 2011, New York City partnered with IBM to launch Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) which added a career theme and work experiences to the early college model. Today there are more than 300 P-TECH academies. Themes and business partnerships have expanded beyond computer science to health, business, energy, and education. 


Another option within Accelerated Pathways is participation in boot camps or intensive training programs. These programs are focused on providing students with specific skills and knowledge in a succinct time frame. By immersing themselves in a concentrated learning environment, students can quickly gain expertise in a particular field or industry, making them highly marketable to potential employers.

Earn-and-Learn Ladders

Earn-and-learn ladders are an innovative aspect of Accelerated Pathways that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. These programs, such as apprenticeships or internships, allow students to gain practical experience in a chosen field while also receiving educational support. By actively participating in the workforce while pursuing their education, students can develop a deep understanding of their chosen profession and build valuable connections within the industry.

Career and Technical Education

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are also an integral part of Accelerated Pathways. These programs focus on equipping students with the specific skills and knowledge needed for CTE careers. By providing targeted training in areas such as healthcare, STEM, or skilled trades, students can enter the workforce more quickly and with a competitive edge.


Koshkonong Trails School, a charter microschool within the School District of Cambridge, is on a mission to “provide a place-based, experiential education built around conservation, stewardship, and agriculture.” A project-based middle and high school situated on a 20-acre farmstead, the school utilizes place-based learning to explore trails, a wetland, quarry, pond and a community garden.

Design Principle - Intentional


Each comprehensive high school in Dallas ISD has a P-TECH academy connected to employers in the high tech economy. 

Specializing in IT, cyber, health, business and energy, these P-TECH programs not only serve the communities they are in but also the new economy. 


Connecticut Technical Education and Career System (CTECS) is a state-run vocational education program that offers high-quality technical education to students in Connecticut. Whether looking to enter the workforce immediately or continue their education at a higher level, CTECS offers over 30 CTE programs, early college in high school credit, and a robust work-based learning program. Five of these CTE programs include green pathways or embed green skills in the program; for example, the Architecture pathway includes curriculum on sustainable building technologies and students enrolled in the HVAC program will also obtain instruction in energy efficiency, environmental, renewable energy, as well as energy conservation practices.


In California’s Central Valley, The Wonderful Company has launched a Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep program that makes the most of the large agricultural industry in the area and offers students the opportunity to earn an Associate of Science degree while in high school, tuition free, including 60 college credits and over 200 hours of paid internship experience. Students can either enter the workforce into a guaranteed job or head on to a four year university (in which half of the cost has already been paid for and half of the credits have already been completed).

Considerations for Getting Started

Conduct a needs assessment.

Begin by conducting a thorough needs assessment to identify your students’ specific needs and interests. Determine the demand for accelerated pathways and gather input from students, parents, teachers, and community stakeholders. This will help you tailor your offerings to meet the needs of your district.

Research best practices.

Explore best practices and success stories from other school districts or educational institutions implementing accelerated pathways. Look for examples of effective program models, curriculum frameworks, partnerships, and support structures that have yielded positive outcomes.

Build partnerships.

Collaborate with local colleges, universities, industry partners, and community organizations to establish partnerships to enhance your accelerated pathways. These partners can provide your students with resources, expertise, mentorship opportunities, and real-world experiences.

Develop a comprehensive plan.

Create a comprehensive plan that outlines the goals, objectives, and strategies for implementing accelerated pathways in your district. Define the specific pathways you will offer, the eligibility criteria, the curriculum or training components, and the support services available to students. Consider the necessary resources, such as staffing, facilities, technology, and funding, and outline a timeline for implementation.

Provide professional development.

Offer professional development opportunities for teachers and staff to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support students in accelerated pathways. Provide training on curriculum design, instruction, assessment, and effective strategies for meeting the unique needs of accelerated learners.