In today’s educational environment, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate that high school graduates are ready for the world they face. Educators must ensure that students graduate with the knowledge they need to enter postsecondary education or the modern workforce—and succeed.

Unfortunately, a recent study by Achieve, Inc. shows that instructors and employers do not feel that recent high school graduates are prepared for college or the workforce.

Significant majorities of both college instructors and employers report that recent high school graduates arrive at college or the workplace with gaps in their preparation:

  • 96% of instructors at two-year colleges reported at least some gaps in their students’ preparation (including 46% who reported large gaps in preparation).
  • 88% of instructors at four-year colleges reported at least some gaps in their students’ preparation (including 34% who reported large gaps in preparation).
  • 82% of employers reported at least some gaps in recent high school graduates’ preparation for typical jobs in their companies (including 48% who reported large gaps in preparation).[1]

The study goes on to discuss the need for setting high expectations for students. “It’s critical that schools clearly communicate the expectations of colleges and employers early in a student’s high school experience and help them to understand the coursework they will need to complete,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve.

How can schools help close the readiness gap? We believe the first step is identifying the specific areas where students are falling short by using a modern, robust analytics tool so you can dynamically explore the various factors that contribute to college and career readiness. Combine this data and ongoing analysis with your instructional adjustments and expertise to ensure your students are ready for their journey to college and career.

What is College and Career Readiness (CCR)?

“Simply put, ‘college and career readiness’ is the umbrella under which many education and workforce policies, programs, and initiatives thrive. From high-quality early education and strong, foundational standards in elementary school to rigorous career and technical education programs and college completion goals, college and career readiness is the unifying agenda across the P-20 education pipeline.”
Achieve.org[2]

With all of the discussion and focus—dare we say controversy—surrounding the Common Core State Standards[3] and initiatives such as PARCC[4] and SBAC[5], it’s easy to lose sight of what drives these programs: a sincere effort to improve student achievement so that students are ready for the next chapter in their lives. Yet we’re falling short of achieving that goal:

  • Four out of 10 new college students take remedial courses.
  • Employers consistently comment on high schools graduates not being ready to enter the workforce.

Educators need a set of articulated goals that define what college ready or career ready looks like. What knowledge must graduating students have to succeed in the world they’re entering?

Different organizations define this in different ways:

  • PARCC defines CCR as the level of proficiency exhibited in the areas of English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. Overall readiness is determined through a series of objective, academic performance assessments (PARCC does not assess non-academic factors such as persistence, motivation, time management, and so on). This consortium identifies five performance levels for ELA and Math: minimal command, partial command, moderate command, strong command, and distinguished command.
  • The Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) defines CCR as follows:

“College and career readiness refers to the content knowledge, skills, and habits that students must possess to be successful in postsecondary education or training that leads to a sustaining career. A student who is ready for college and career can qualify for and succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses without the need for remedial or developmental coursework.”[6]

EPIC goes on to specify prerequisite skills, including proficiency in reading a variety of texts, fluency in writing, quantitative literacy (mathematics), comprehension of the sciences, awareness of social systems, and more.

Various state and city departments of education are also starting to create their own definition of CCR:

  • New York City Department of Education sets four key benchmarks:[7]
    • Common Core Learning Standards: Academic mastery that students demonstrate at every grade level as identified by city and state standards.
    • Academic & Personal Behaviors: Set of learning habits and skills that support academic readiness. This includes non-cognitive, socio-emotional indicators, specifically: work habits and organizational skills, collaboration and communication skills, persistence, self-regulation, and social engagement.
    • Academic Programming: Choices regarding the level of rigor and subjects that students complete, without requiring remedial academic courses after high school.
    • College and Career Access: Learning about postsecondary pathways and careers to develop meaningful personal aspirations. This domain includes exploration; financial knowledge; effective use of summer months; and direct support for access, enrolment, and transition activities.
  • Texas was the first state to integrate their own CCR standards in 2008. The Texas Education Agency worked with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission to boost college and career readiness. Standards are drawn from Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards in ELA, Math, Science, and Social Science and underlying Cross‑Disciplinary studies.[8]

As you can see, most definitions identify similar factors for what it means to be college or career ready. These definitions are based on a strong foundation of knowledge and intellectual skills, including academic achievement. Most studies find significant commonalities between being college ready and career ready, so foundational measures of readiness will serve equally well for students heading either to college or to the modern workforce.

[1]      “Employers and College Faculty Report Gaps in Recent Graduates’ Preparedness in New National Survey | Achieve.” Employers and College Faculty Report Gaps in Recent Graduates’ Preparedness in New National Survey | Achieve. Http://www.achieve.org/, 22 July 2015. Web. 23 July 2015. <http://www.achieve.org/survey-results-show-gaps-preparedness>.

[2] “College and Career Readiness | Achieve.” College and Career Readiness | Achieve. Achieve.org, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.achieve.org/college-and-career-readiness>.

[3] <http://www.corestandards.org/>

[4] Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. <http://www.parcconline.org/parcc-assessment>

[5] Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. <http://www.smarterbalanced.org/>

[6] “The Definition: Understanding College and Career Readiness.” The Definition: Understanding College and Career Readiness. EPIC Educational Policy Improvement Center, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. <https://www.epiconline.org/Issues/college-career-readiness/definition.dot>.

[7] “College and Career Readiness.” About Common Core. New York City Department of Education, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. <http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/CommonCoreLibrary/About/CCR/default.htm>.

[8] “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.” Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Texas Education Agency, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. <http://tea.texas.gov/index2.aspx?id=6148>.