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College and Career Readiness

What is College and Career Readiness?

College and career readiness has become a key priority for the PK-20 education community and the nation at large. The increasingly competitive global economy makes it imperative that more students enter career fields that enable higher wages and greater potential for growth, but institutions of higher education and the business community have long expressed concerns about the inadequacy of a traditional high school education in preparing students for the postsecondary education or training necessary to succeed in these careers (Carnevale, et al., 2010; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009).

However, high schools face many challenges in ensuring all students are college and career ready. Not only must high schools raise the expectations they place on students and help them set more ambitious postsecondary goals, but they must also provide a wider array of supports to help students meet their individual goals. Furthermore, the growing consensus on the importance of all students mastering a broad range of knowledge and skills – such as the English Language Arts and mathematics standards set forth by the Common Core State Standards Initiative; key learning skills, such as social and emotional and academic success skills; and knowledge of and exposure to a diverse range of postsecondary pathways – is made even more challenging by the fact that there is also subset of college and career readiness skills that are directly tied to individual postsecondary goals for college and career (Educational Policy Improvement Center, 2009; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009).

The increased focus on college and career readiness, combined with the complexity of the challenges associated with the topic, have led to a rapidly expanding college and career readiness community, rich with resources yet replete with confusion. The National High School Center conducted a scan of organizations that address college and career readiness and identified more than 70 such organizations, including those focused on policy, practice, advocacy, access and research. Through this scan, the Center identified three major strands of work (see below) and created the College and Career Development Organizer. The organizer is intended to help users traverse the vast CCR landscape, encouraging conversations on each of the three strands and serving as a tool that can support the development of strategies and initiatives to better prepare all students for college and careers. Additionally, the National High School Center has created a series of tools and briefs to extrapolate on the College and Career Development Organizer and provide further insight into this increasingly complicated field of college and career readiness initiatives. An invitation-only symposium on April 24, 2012 in Washington DC encouraged further conversations about the topic.

View a PDF version of the College and Career Development Organizer.

College and Career Development Organizer

About the College and Career Development Organizer

About the College and Career Development Organizer

The National High School Center has created a college and career development organizer to synthesize and organize an increasingly complicated and crowded field of college and career readiness initiatives. The organizer, composed of three strands, can be used to map the efforts of SEAs and LEAs as well as the many organizations devoted to researching and providing support for college and career readiness. By mapping these diverse initiatives against an organizer, it becomes easier to see how the many components of career and college readiness fit together, and how organizations and other entities can be leveraged to establish meaningful collaborations in helping high school students actualize their goals.

The organizer can also be used to help SEA, LEAs, schools, and other organizations develop college and career readiness strategies and initiatives to address student needs. Stakeholders can use the components of the organizer to ensure that they are designing comprehensive college and career readiness definitions and strategies that address all aspects of the field that are essential to their context. Many schools and organizations may choose to limit the organizer components they plan to address because some of the components do not apply to their local context. Similarly, components may be prioritized to allow schools or organizations to harness limited resources to effectively address their most pressing college and career readiness needs. The mapping aspect of the organizer can also be referenced to identify organizations and relationships to leverage once schools have identified areas that they need additional assistance to address.

As with any building blocks, identifying the components that will be used to structure ongoing efforts is only part of the planning process. It is also essential to consider the relationships between these components and how they fit together to create a coherent and cohesive college and career readiness effort and to align concurrent strands of work. While the organizer is intended to serve as a planning tool to help frame these efforts, we recognize that the planning, alignment, and implementation of college and career readiness initiatives are and should be driven by local contextual factors, stakeholder needs and interests, resources, policies, and priorities. Therefore, the organizer intentionally does not provide a universal framework or model for addressing the selected components.

Goals and Expectations for College and Career Readiness-What should high school graduates know and be able to do?

Goals and Expectations for College and Career Readiness
What should high school graduates know and be able to do?

Core Content

Common Core State Standards

  • English/language arts, literacy, and mathematics content standards

Individual State Standards

  • English/language arts, mathematics, science, foreign language, and technical standards
Pathways Content

College and Career Knowledge and Access

  • College and work trajectories, environments, and eligibility requirements

College and Career Goals

  • Student-declared educational and career aspirations

Pathway Content Standards

  • Programs of Study standards (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), health, business)
  • Career and technical education standards
Lifelong Learning Skills

Social and Emotional Skills

  • Self-management
  • Responsible decision-making
  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills

Higher-Order Thinking Skills

  • Problem solving, critical thinking, and reasoning
  • Synthesis and precision

Academic Success and Employability Skills

  • Inquisitiveness and intellectual openness
  • Organization, study, and research skills
  • Attendance and engagement
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Effective communication

Civic/Consumer/Life Skills

  • Civic engagement
  • Financial literacy and management
  • Information technology and social media skills
Pathways and Supports for College and Career Preparation-What policies, programs, and structures will help high school graduates meet expectations?

Pathways and Supports for College and Career Preparation
What policies, programs, and structures will help high school graduates meet expectations?

Personalized Learning Supports

Individualized Learning Strategies

  • Individual learning plans
  • Flexible grouping and differentiated instruction
  • Mentoring and counseling

Targeted Interventions

  • Content/credit recovery and tutoring
  • Health and wraparound family services
  • Tiered interventions / Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
  • Student, family and community engagement
Rigorous Programs of Study

Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

  • Middle school preparation and pathway selection (career exploration, academic preparation)
  • Accelerated learning programs
  • Blended learning

Well-Defined Pathways with Postsecondary Alignment

  • PK-20 initiatives
  • Multi-disciplinary programs of study
  • Alternative pathways and Graduate Equivalency Diploma Pathway (GED)

Postsecondary Experiences and Preparations

  • College visits and career fairs
  • Dual enrollment, internships, and work experience
  • Enrollment and financial aid applications and enrollment preparation
Aligned Resources, Structures, and Supports

Physical and Organizational Structures

  • Block scheduling, increased learning time, and advisories
  • Career academies and smaller learning communities

Human Capital

  • Recruitment and hiring
  • Professional development and support
  • Supervision and evaluation

Community Partnerships and Resources

  • Tutoring/mentoring programs and service learning
  • Internships

Fiscal Resources

  • Funding, facilities, and equipment
Outcomes and Measures for College and Career Success-How do we know when high school graduates meet expectations?

Outcomes and Measures for College and Career Success
How do we know when high school graduates meet expectations?

On-track Indicators

Academic/Technical Performance and Engagement

  • Credit accumulation and recovery
  • Attendance and grade point average
  • Participation in accelerated learning programs and/or college - and career-ready courses of study
  • Performance on aligned assessments of high school core content (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balance assessments, high school end of course and exit exams)
  • Performance on career and portfolio assessments

Postsecondary Access and Enrollment

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and postsecondary applications completed
  • Postsecondary program enrollment
  • Employment applications completion
  • Internship or employment opportunity acceptance
Attainment and Authentication

Secondary Certification

  • High school diploma (standard, alternative, college and career ready) or GED
  • College credits in dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate courses
  • Postsecondary degree(s)
  • Awarded industry-recognized credential or certificate

Postsecondary Success

  • Post-secondary education graduation certificate
  • Post-secondary training certification
  • Earning wage in "middle-skills" (jobs that require an associate's degree, a vocational certificate, on-the-job training, or some college) or higher skills job
  • Postsecondary remediation not needed
Accountability and Improvement Feedback

Accountability Reporting Systems

  • High school and district report cards, reporting college and career readiness measures
  • Performance-based assessments

Data-Informed Improvement Cycles

  • High school and district diagnostic assessments
  • State and district improvement plans
  • Early warning systems for dropout and college and career readiness