Making Career Readiness Count

Achieve and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), with research support from the College and Career Readiness and Success Center, jointly released a report, “Making Career Readiness Count.”  The report recommends that in order for schools to truly prepare students for college and careers, it’s crucial to set performance goals for students that place a clear focus on career-oriented courses and experiences along with academic measures, and to then measure students’ progress with clear, specific indicators that are used in school and district reporting and accountability systems.

What makes a person truly ready to be successful beyond high school? The report defines “college and career readiness” in high school graduates as having a broad mastery of core academic subjects such as English Language Arts (ELA) and math knowledge, combined with postsecondary job training and/or technical skills necessary for their chosen career. Or, from another perspective, a person is “career-ready” when he or she is equipped with general employability skills (often referred to as “soft skills”) such as communication, problem solving, or critical thinking, as well as the foundational academic and technical skills required in the career of choice.  

The report outlines a framework that encourages mastery of the full range of these skills. Two main ideas emerge from the framework:

  • States must use multiple indicators of college and career readiness, beyond simple test scores. More emphasis should be placed on demonstrable student achievement, completion of coursework, and working towards credits and/or established credentials.
  • States must also incentivize student progress, and reward schools and districts where students show that they are making progress towards, meeting and exceeding college and career readiness.

The report also outlines and describes three key trends with regard to how states are using career-focused readiness indicators.

  • More than half the states use career-focused indicators in their reporting or accountability systems. In total, 29 states use at least one career-focused readiness indicator, with 22 using one or more on their state report cards.
  • Many states are emphasizing college readiness or career readiness indicators in their accountability systems. Some states, by requiring students to meet only one benchmark (such as earning AP/IB or dual-enrollment credit, meeting a college-ready benchmark on ACT, etc.), means that students are required to demonstrate achievement in one dimension of college or career-readiness.
  • A few states are leading the way and include a range of college and career readiness indicators in their accountability and reporting systems.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations and considerations for states to keep in mind:

  • Use a variety of college and career readiness measures rather than a single measure to quantify a student’s readiness.
  • Involve state Career and Technical Education (CTE) leaders, as well as workforce leaders in the conversation.
  • Find a balance between public reporting and accountability, to ensure that the indicators and information reported is useful and actionable.
  • Use this public information to make decisions and inform policy (e.g.. building indicators of college and career-readiness into state report cards).

Click here to access a full copy of the report and the webinar hosted to release the report.

George Knowles is the web communications associate with the American Youth Policy Forum.


Photo credit: Flickr

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