NCLB Waivers and States’ Definitions of College and Career Ready

Under Principle 1: College and Career Ready Expectations of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver Applications, states were required to include their definition of CCR in their applications. We reviewed the 10 approved waiver applications seeking clarity about states’ definitions of CCR expectations.

Three of the 10 states (Indiana, New Jersey, and New Mexico) did not provide CCR definitions, but indicated that the definitions are in progress. Four of the 7 states that provided definitions (Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Oklahoma) define college and career readiness as having the knowledge, skills, and preparation to be successful in college and careers, but they do not specify what those knowledge, skills, and preparation are.

The remaining three states provide more language but also take a broader approach to defining CCR. Kentucky, for example, cites the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) to define career readiness as including “core academic skills and the ability to apply those skills to concrete situations to function in the workplace and in routine daily activities. Employability skills and technical, job-specific skills related to a specific career pathway are essential in any career area.” 

Colorado identifies the need for measurement tools in its definition, but does not specify which measurement tools should be used. Colorado’s application says that content knowledge and learning and behavior skills should be demonstrated, “through the completion of increasingly challenging, engaging, and coherent academic work and experiences, and the achievement of proficiency shown by a body of evidence including postsecondary and workforce readiness assessments and other relevant materials that document a student’s postsecondary and workforce readiness.”

Georgia’s definition lists examples of the type of skills graduating students should have, but does not go into great depth about what these looks like and how to measure them. According to their definition, CCR is when, “all students graduate from high school with both rigorous content knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge through higher-order skills including, but not limited to, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration."

The lack of specificity about how CCR is defined and can be measured could lead to confusion when it comes time to implement state plans. Federal, state, and district policymakers and administrators will need to work together to specify expectations and define the outcomes and measurement tools to ensure expectations have been met.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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