Debbie Critchfield

A committee within the Idaho State Board of Education has discussed a potential program, Guided Pathways, which, if approved by the full board in August, will help Idaho students be more prepared for higher education.

“We are defining Guided Pathways as a way to support students as they move their way through the educational system,” Debbie Critchfield, vice president of the Idaho State Board of Education said.

She said the program, if approved, would be phased in over time to schools, but hopes it will happen sooner rather than later.

“The goal is to have most of them implemented for sure by the fall of 2019,” Critchfield said.

Critchfield said they have included the pre-school through graduate level in this program.

“What needs to happen at each of the stages along a child’s academic career is to provide them the support that they need, information, etc. to allow them to make informed decisions,” Critchfield said. 

She said Idaho currently has 40 percent of students who continue their educations after high school.

“The State Board of Education about five years ago had set a statewide goal of having 60 percent of Idahoans age 25-34 with some type of advanced certificate, training or college degree,” Critchfield said.

She said currently there are summer programs and transition coordinators to help students progress in their educations and to keep students engaged in the summer break.

“The term summer melt is alive and well in Idaho as it is nationally, where students who graduate from high school who maybe don’t have a firm plan tend to melt away, so to speak, from progressing or choosing to do a career path or education path beyond high school,”  Critchfield said.

Not only will Guided Pathways focus on students but it will also include parents. The school board is looking at ways to be able to effectively engage the parents early on in critical decision making points. 

“One of the things that we have identified that’s an important partner in this whole conversation are the parents,” Critchfield said. “Particularly for students who are coming right out of high school, they do look to their parents to give them advice and support beyond financial support.”

Critchfield said the main goal of this program is not to just have a certificate or training but be able to support themselves, be productive citizens in the state and give them options on what they can do with their life.

“It’s not about education being its own end but it’s about creating options and opportunities to help the citizens of Idaho be happy in their economic life and help develop the state,” Critchfield said.