College- and Career-Readiness by Mark Kagika

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Overview


College and career readiness means that “a high school graduate has the English and math knowledge and skills needed to qualify for and succeed in the postsecondary job training and/or education necessary for their chosen career” (Achieve, Inc., n.d.a, para. 1). Furthermore, “to be college- and career-ready, high school graduates must have studied a rigorous and broad curriculum, grounded in the core academic disciplines, but also consisting of other subjects that are part of a well-rounded education” (Achieve, Inc., n.d., para. 1). Thus it takes more than just academic coursework for a high school graduate to be college and career ready; they also have to be exposed to and experience an education outside of the core academic coursework. In their definition of career readiness, The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) identified seven competencies that are associated with being career ready. These competencies are: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Oral/Written Communication, Teamwork/Collaboration, Information Technology Application, Leadership, Professionalism/Work Ethic, and Career Management (National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), n.d.). The goal of education, especially for U.S. public schools, thus is to prepare students to graduate with enough knowledge and know-how to succeed in whatever career they may want to partake. In other words, “every student should graduate high school well prepared for college and a career” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, p. 1).
Photo Credit: Duane Burleson/AP
Photo Credit: Duane Burleson/AP


Though the goal of education for U.S. public schools may be to prepare students for college or a future career, the reality is that employers and college professors find that high school graduates are failing to meet the mark. A recent survey released by Achieve in 2015 asked college professors, employers, and recent high school graduates their opinions on whether public high schools are preparing high school graduates for the challenges of postsecondary life. The survey showed that 78% of college instructors and 62% of employers think that high schools are not doing enough to face the challenges and expectations of postsecondary life (Achieve, Inc., 2015). The results of this survey show the current state of opinions on how well public schools are meeting their goal of preparing students to be college and career ready.

There are several different approaches being formulated to meet the challenge of preparing the high school graduates to be college and career ready. The approach of the U.S. Department of Education centers on three main points: raising standards for all students in English language arts and mathematics; developing better assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards; and implementing a complete education through improved professional development and evidence-based instructional models and supports (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Achieve, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization that works with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability, also believes that “aligned standards provide the foundation to improve curriculum, instruction and assessment and better prepare students for college and the workplace” (Achieve, Inc., n.d.b, para. 1). This approach focuses on ensuring that the education that students receive in school is closely aligned to the expectations of colleges and employers.

Georgia is working to meet the challenge of preparing high school graduates to be college and career ready in several different ways. One approach is through the Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) pathway. CTAE “offers students over 100 pathways within 17 career clusters” (Rickman & Olivarez, 2015, p. 38) thus increasing the number of ways that high school students can graduate college and career ready. For example, Marion County Middle High School currently offers CTAE options in Healthcare Sciences (Nursing), Family and Consumer Sciences (Nutrition and Food Sciences), Education (Early Childhood Education), Business and Computer Science, and Agriculture Education (Agriculture Mechanics, and Forestry/Natural Resources) (Jernigan). The aim of the CTAE program “is to show students the relevance of what they’re learning in the classroom, whether they want to attend a two-year college, a four-year university or go straight into the world of work” (Georgia Department of Education, n.d., para. 1). These high school students “are more likely to graduate from high school and participate in postsecondary education” and further they “graduate with industry certificates and college credits along with their high school diplomas” (Rickman & Olivarez, 2015, p. 38). Another way that Georgia is working to meet the challenge of preparing high school students that are college and career ready is through the use of the Move On When Ready (MOWR) program. MOWR allows high school students to complete college classes as soon as they are ready to do so without the impediment of cost. These students are typically enrolled in both college and high school and have the opportunity to graduate with secondary and postsecondary credit.

In Georgia, the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) holds schools accountable for how well they prepare their students to be college and career ready. Among other components, one factor that is considered in the calculation of the CCRPI is post high school readiness. Post high school readiness includes considerations such as the percentage of students completing a CTAE pathway or the percentage of graduates earning high school credit(s) for accelerated enrollment via programs such as MOWR, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate (IB) courses etc. (Georgia Department of Education, 2015, p. 2). So the better the schools are able to make students college and career ready, the higher the CCRPI score the schools are able to attain. Thus schools have an incentive to provide services such as the MOWR program, AP courses, IB courses etc. that would help their students to be college and career ready.

Trend or Issue?


College and career readiness is both a trend and an issue. In 2012, NPR reported a story in which the importance of "having basic math knowledge" (Bloodhoo, 2012, para. 7) was explored relating to the manufacturing industry. When speaking about a vocational program designed to help workers learn the basics, the story reports that the majority of applicants do not meet the entry-level requirements. While this story primarily focused on the manufacturing industry, it undergirded an important point: preparation is important. Another NPR story reports that despite having many open jobs, there are many people without work because of a mismatch of skills (Memmot, 2011). Both stories illustrate why college and career readiness is an issue.

In Georgia, the issue of college and career readiness can be seen through an analysis of the types of skills workers will be expected to have in the future. The Georgia Department of Labor (2015) predicts that the workforce in Georgia is expected to grow by 11.7% from 2010 employment levels (p. 7). Additionally, “25.6% of new occupations in Georgia will generally require a bachelor’s degree or more through 2020” (The Georgia Department of Labor, 2015, p. 8). Furthermore, “occupations generally requiring a high school diploma or equivalent [will] account for the majority of all job openings” in 2020 (The Georgia Department of Labor, 2015, p. 9) and is the reason why college and career readiness is an issue. High school graduates will need to be prepared for the demands and responsibilities of employment. In order to ensure that students are getting the requisite preparation, policy makers have had to codify specific standards. Schools can then look to these standards as targets to make sure their students are on track to be college and career ready.


The trend with college and career readiness can be more clearly seen with the development of college and career readiness standards. One of the earliest attempts to codify specific standards for college and career readiness was the American Diploma Project (ADP) Benchmarks. ADP was launched by three partner organizations: Achieve, Inc.; The Education Trust; and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (The American Diploma Project, 2004, p. 2). It worked closely with K-12, postsecondary and business leaders in five partner states to “identify the English and mathematics knowledge and skills needed for success in both college and work” (The American Diploma Project, 2004, p. 4).
Another movement to codify specific standards for college andexternal image ccgps_logoapple2.jpg career readiness is embodied in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Involved in launching the CCSS in 2009 were “state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, through their partnership in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)” (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices [NGA Center], & Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO], 2010, para. 1). The CCSS were broken down into two categories: the college- and career-readiness standards, and the K-12 standards (NGA Center, & CCSSO, 2012). Today, 42 states, including GA, have adopted the Common Core and are implementing the standards according to their own timelines (NGA Center, & CCSSO, 2012).

As mentioned above, employers and college instructors think that high schools are not doing enough to prepare students for the rigors of postsecondary life. In 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This act provided the "foundation for education reform by supporting investments in innovative strategies that are likely to lead to improved results for students" (U.S. Department of Education, 2009, p. 2). The ARRA provided the funds for the Race to the Top Fund, a competitive grant designed to encourage and reward States that are, among other things, "ensuring student preparation for success in college and careers" (U.S. Department of Education, 2009, p. 2). Here can be seen a very strong commitment to preparing students to be college and career ready. That same commitment is evident today and will, I believe, continue to permeate the drive behind education reform in the country.

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Annotated Bibliography


Achieve, Inc. (n.d.a). College and Career Readiness. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://www.achieve.org/college-and-career-readiness
This source provides a definition for college and career readiness.

Achieve, Inc. (n.d.b). College- and Career-Ready Standards. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://www.achieve.org/standards
This source provides a justification for college and career ready standards by Achieve, Inc.

Achieve, Inc. (2015, July 22). Rising to the Challenge Survey, Part Two: Employers and College Faculty. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://www.achieve.org/publications/rising-challenge-survey-ii-powerpoint
This survey was released by Achieve in 2015 and indicates the opinions of college professors and employers on whether high school graduates are college and career ready.

Bloodhoo, N. (2012, July 10). For Manufacturing Jobs, Workers Brush Up On Math. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2012/07/10/155837962/for-manufacturing-jobs-workers-brush-up-on-math
This news report speaks about the efforts of colleges and nonprofit organizations in Illinois to bridge the skills gap of workers by combining manufacturing training with basic reading and math.

Georgia Department of Education. (2015). 2016 CCRPI Indicators. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Accountability/Documents/Indicators and Targets/2016 Indicators.pdf
This source indicates the categories used in the calculation of the CCRPI for 2016.

Georgia Department of Education. (n.d.). Career Clusters/Pathways. Retrieved May 31, 2016, from http://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/CTAE/Pages/CTAE-Georgia-Career-Clusters.aspx
This source outlines the CTAE program.

Georgia Department of Labor, Workforce Statistics & Economic Research. (2015). Georgia Workforce Trends: An Analysis of Long-term Employment to 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://explorer.dol.state.ga.us/mis/Current/gaworkforcecurrent.pdf
This source provides a summary of the latest trends in employment growth (or decline) covering the decade from 2010 to 2020. It depicts trends in two areas: industries and occupations.

Jernigan, M. (2016, May 23). CTAE Pathways offered at Marion County [Personal interview].

Memmott, M. (2011, June 15). 2 Million 'Open Jobs'? Yes, But U.S. Has A Skills Mismatch. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/06/15/137203549/two-million-open-jobs-yes-but-u-s-has-a-skills-mismatch
This NPR story reports that a mismatch of skills is one of the reasons why there are many open jobs despite having a high unemployment rate.

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (n.d.). Career Readiness Defined. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://www.naceweb.org/knowledge/career-readiness-competencies.aspx
This provides a definition for career readiness by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Development Process. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/development-process/
This article provides information about how the Common Core State Standards were developed.

Rickman, D., & Olivarez, E. (2016). Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2016 (12th ed., Rep.). Atlanta, GA: Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.
This source provides the top 10 issues in education to watch in 2016.

The American Diploma Project. (2004). Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://www.achieve.org/files/ReadyorNot.pdf
Ready or Not is the culminating report of the original American Diploma Project. Based on analysis of employment data and research involving K-12 educators, postsecondary educators, and business leaders, the report provides Math and English benchmarks that graduates must master to succeed in postsecondary education and/or high-growth jobs.

U.S. Department of Education. (2009, November). Race to the Top Program Executive Summary. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from https://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf
This source provides the executive summary of the Race to the Top program.

U.S. Department of Education. (2010, May). College- and Career-Ready Standards and Assessments. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/blueprint/faq/college-career.pdf
This source outlines the policy of the U.S. Department of Education when seeking to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.