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College and Career Readiness: Redefining Ready

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"Most U.S. Students Are Not Ready for College, Career." Unfortunately, this is a common headline across the country with "U.S." interchangeable with any number of school, district, or state names.

Usually, it means students didn't perform as well on a standardized assessment as someone thinks they should have. But as educators know, that doesn't mean as much as politicians or the media imply that it does. One assessment does not reveal a student's entire knowledge base. All assessments have limitations. Students have off days.

When evaluating student progress for instructional purposes, educators use a variety of measures. Unfortunately, the idea of multiple measures on a systemic level has been largely ignored in favor of standardized test scores, which are relatively easy to collect and report and have been enshrined in federal policy for the last decade-plus as the measure of school quality.

But that could be changing. In addition to four academic indicators, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires state accountability systems to include one other indicator, such as student engagement, educator engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, or school climate and safety. The idea? To broaden the definition of what it means to be a successful school.

And the pressure isn't only coming from Washington, DC. States and districts across the country are developing new ways of measuring student achievement, as well as tools to help redefine what it means to be a successful school -- or student.

National College and Career Readiness Indicators

One such tool comes out of a Chicago-area school district, and it aims to help educators better determine whether a student is college and career ready.

Township High School District 214 Superintendent David Schuler -- who also currently serves as president of AASA, the School Superintendents Association -- and his colleagues have conducted an extensive review of the work of leading research institutions to find out what really predicts student success in college or career.

Based on their research, they developed the National College and Career Readiness Indicators, a multi-metric index that offers a truer picture of whether students are ready for life after high school than you get from simply looking at standardized test scores. AASA has since endorsed the work and launched Redefining Ready! as a national campaign based on these indicators to change the conversation about readiness in our country.

Essentially, the indicators form a checklist for schools and districts -- and possibly even states -- to use to gauge whether students are prepared for their next step.

College Ready Indicators

Under this model, students are considered to be college ready if they have a GPA of 2.8 out of 4.0 and meet one or more of the following benchmarks:

  • Advanced placement exam (3+)
  • Advanced placement course (A, B or C)
  • Dual credit college English or math (A, B or C)
  • College developmental or remedial English or math (A, B or C)
  • Algebra II (A, B or C)
  • International baccalaureate exam (4+)
  • College readiness placement assessment (ACT scores of 18 in English, 22 in reading, 23 in science, and 22 in math; SAT benchmark scores have not yet been determined given its recent redesign)

Career Ready Indicators

Students are considered career ready if they have identified a career interest and meet two or more of the following benchmarks:

  • 90 percent attendance
  • 25 hours of community service
  • Workplace learning experience
  • Industry credential
  • Dual credit career pathway course
  • Two or more organized co-curricular activities

In addition, students hoping to enter the military must meet the passing scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) for each branch of the military.

Of course, these are just a sampling of the indicators associated with postsecondary success. Others include: earning As, Bs, Cs, FAFSA completion, enrollment in a career pathway course sequence, college academic advising, participation in college bound bridge programs, taking senior year math, and completion of a math class after Algebra II.

District officials did not consider the research base on those indicators strong enough to warrant inclusion in their final list, but it's important to note that this index is merely a starting point. As knowledge about what is tied to success increases, it can be easily adapted.

Changing the Conversation

So how can you use this information to change the conversation around readiness in your community?

If you are interested, you can sign on to personally endorse the Redefining Ready! initiative. You can also bring a resolution to your school board that your district adopt the framework of indicators to assess student readiness. Or you can use these indicators to create a school (or district) reporting system to ensure students are on track for success and shine a light on areas your school could focus efforts to improve readiness.

You can also use these indicators as a starting point for a broader conversation in your community. How does your community define ready?

*If you are interested in reviewing the background research on each of these indicators, it is available at Redefining Ready!

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cindyjones7415's picture

Excellent. Thank you for this post. Determining students' readiness goes far beyond what any standardized test result indicates. Utilizing these indicators in addition to test scores can paint a much better picture of a student's abilities and strengths. Isn't that what we all want to do as educators? To celebrate what students CAN do and have done is much more valuable and telling than simply looking at a test score.

Tyronne McEuen's picture
Tyronne McEuen
distinguished mathematics teacher

On first glance this looks like a list of traits any school district can utilize to determine if students are prepared for a career. It is important to continue to define, discuss, and support the difference between a job and a career. In my experience, administrators justify student success using job descriptors as career descriptors.

nrog's picture

This is a great way to recognize different accomplishments that can't be shown through standardized testing! I think it's important to see students as more than a number and hopefully puts less pressure on students to excel at one particular test. I work in post-secondary education and often discussion admission with students who are trying to return to studies and don't meet admission requirements for one reason or another. This offers another way of fulfilling those requirements.

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