- As parents and business leaders push for college and career readiness as a measure of educational success, 44 states have now included such indicators in their new plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) or in their own state rating systems, though the way readiness is measured varies widely from state to state, Education Week reports.
- Roughly 36 states use high school coursework — such as Advanced Placement (AP) or dual-enrollment classes — as a measure of college readiness while college entrance tests are another popular measure. States often measure career readiness by industry-recognized certifications or work-based learning experiences, and 30 states offer a menu of options to demonstrate college and career readiness.
- Some experts, however, worry that these measures are not comparable from state to state and that most states ignore measures that look beyond high school to postsecondary enrollment and success in college. This data would be especially useful in tracking vulnerable populations as school leaders look at equity issues in college and career preparation, some say.
Many states have selected college and career readiness as an indicator in their ESSA plans because it makes sense to see such readiness as a goal of education. And using tests is a natural way to determine whether students will be likely to succeed beyond high school. When it comes to college readiness, many states look to college entrance tests such as the ACT or SAT, while some states use the ACT Workkeys to measure career readiness.
However, these are not the only measures of readiness, and perhaps not even the best ones, particularly when it comes to career readiness. Non-cognitive skills and so-called "soft skills" are often better indicators of success in the workplace and even in college, though these skills are not easily measured because they require a qualitative, observational process as opposed to a quantitative assessment. Workplace experiences and credentials are other indicators of career readiness as well.
When it comes to preparing students for college and career options, not all schools are able to offer the same opportunities. Rural schools, for instance, often struggle to offer workplace experiences when there are few industries around with the capacity to provide them. Rural schools also usually have fewer colleges as partners, so offering dual credit courses is more difficult. Even offering AP classes is a challenge in a small school that may not have enough students for the course to justify a teacher, which is one reason why this week, the College Board announced a package of new online resources for the AP program.
School leaders are often creative when it comes to offering rich opportunities to prepare students for college and careers. They also need to consider the needs of all students as well. Lower-income students may not have the money to invest in ACT or SAT prep courses and may not have access to technology to pursue these options at home. So school leaders may need to find ways to increase access to these supports, perhaps by offering free prep courses at school.
Rural schools may have to look to online options to offer AP classes or dual enrollment opportunities. Even some industry-standard credentials can be earned online. With the new options that technology provides, schools stand a better chance than ever at making students career and college ready.