Nine UC high schools earn the Tennessee Pathways Certification

By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ

11 certified pathways in UC to connect students with regional career opportunities

NASHVILLE—Nine Upper Cumberland high schools were among the 94 high schools earning a new Tennessee Pathways Certification according to an announcement by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) this week. Putnam joined Cannon, Clay, Macon, Overton, Van Buren and White counties in having one new certification, while Smith and Warren counties received two new program certifications.

TDOE announced 159 pathways in 94 high schools and 51 districts have earned the Tennessee Pathways Certification for creating regional postsecondary opportunities. This more than doubles the number of Certified Pathways in Tennessee, bringing the total to 281 Certified Pathways in 136 high schools and 69 districts.  

Launched in 2019 in partnership with the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the Tennessee Pathways Certification sets clear expectations for alignment, advisement and partnerships that define strong education-to-career pathways. Beyond establishing standards for program quality and design, the certification elevates and celebrates innovative and exemplary pathways in the state.    

A list of the 2020 Tennessee Certified Pathways can be found here.

“Tennessee is committed to building strong college and career pathways statewide,”said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Students benefit from having exposure to high-quality career pathways, and these pathways will serve to enhance our state’s future success and outcomes. We are proud to have more than doubled the number of Certified Pathways and this tremendous growth speaks to our districts, communities and partners’ shared values of strong education-to-career pathways. The department is proud to support every district across all regions working to further develop, enhance and grow these opportunities.” 

In preparation for the 2020 application cycle, the department made several key improvements based on district feedback and lessons learned from the initial application cycle in 2019 while making accommodations for COVID-19 disruptions.  

All schools serving grades 9-12 in Tennessee were eligible to apply and each pathway was evaluated through a rigorous application process in which schools detailed their postsecondary and employer partnerships, early college and career experiences and structures for providing students with impactful career advisement. 

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, districts submitted 188 total applications for the Tennessee Pathways Certification, representing every region of the state, 108 high schools and 57 districts during the 2019-20 application cycle.  

“The growth in the number of certified Pathways and participating high schools and districts underscores the quality of the work being done by the Pathways team and our K-12 partners,” said Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings. “After the first year, they all worked together to improve the certification process – maintaining the rigorous standards while enhancing clarity, transparency and training to enable more schools to participate. But what’s really important is the impact on students across the state, who are using the Pathways to chart their individual course to college and postsecondary training needed for high-quality careers in their communities and anywhere in the state.” 

Tennessee Pathways is structured around three key elements shown to increase seamless enrollment and success in postsecondary programs:  

  1. High-quality college and career advisement throughout K-12 
  2. Rigorous early postsecondary and work-based learning opportunities in high school 
  3. Seamless vertical alignment between K-12, postsecondary programs, and career opportunities as a result of effective partnerships among school districts, higher education institutions, employers, and community organizations 

In spring 2019, 81 Tennessee school districts—representing 162 high schools—submitted 415 pathways for the inaugural Certification cycle. Subsequently, 122 pathways representing 74 high schools in 39 districts earned the Certification in the first year of the program. 

On Feb. 8-9, the new Tennessee Certified Pathways will be recognized at the CTE Director’s meeting. 

For additional information on Tennessee Pathways, click here. For additional information, For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact    

Michelle Price is the former managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal and can be reached via email. Send an email.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.