The report examines how adult education providers in Chicago, Houston, and Miami are designing and implementing career pathways programming. This report presents the survey findings, followed by combined focus group and case study findings.

The first section of the report provides a detailed description of the survey's research questions and methods used to understand the landscape of adult education career pathways within and across Chicago, Houston, and Miami. The survey was designed to answer the following research questions:

  1. What are the key features of adult education career pathways in each city, including student characteristics, program design and delivery, and data collection systems?
  2. Which career pathways student outcome measures are most extensively used by adult education providers within and across cities?
  3. Which measures (if any) are used by all adult education providers within and across cities?
  4. What interim and long-term outcomes are adult education providers helping lower-skilled career pathways participants achieve?

The second section of the report outlines the methods used to gather data from focus groups. Data sources included class observations, interviews with teachers, administrators, support staff, and key partners, focus groups with students, and document analysis. Data from focus groups with providers and organizational case studies were used to answer the following questions:

  1. How do selected programs design and implement career pathways programming?
  2. Within each city, which policies and practices shape (a) career pathways programming and (b) coordination across systems?
  3. Which programmatic features, policies, and other factors contribute to student success?

After a review of survey and focus group data and discussion with city partners, they selected two organizations per city that had exemplary career pathways programs, served students with lower educational attainment, and represented different organizational types, occupational sectors, student populations, and neighborhoods.

Major Findings & Recommendations


  • Data showed that over 94 percent of the adult education agencies (that completed the survey) offered or were developing career pathways programming.
  • Most classes and services had entry requirements.
  • Eighty-five percent of respondents measured educational level gains on standardized tests.
  • Wraparound supports are essential for helping students enroll and persist in career pathways programs.
  • For pathways to be effective, organizations need measures that capture interim outcomes toward longer-term goals such as completing a degree or obtaining a job.
  • Research participants underscored the value of existing mechanisms for coordination such as literacy coalitions and grantee networks.


  • The system needs to ensure that adults with the greatest barriers to education and employment have access career pathways programming.
  • Finding ways to measure interim training outcomes is crucial for capturing the achievements of learners who are a long way from reaching longer-term.
  • Bridge classes and multiple entry points are especially important.