Promoting College and Career Readiness Through ESEA Flexibility Plans

The American Institutes for Research recently released a pocket guide, Promoting College and Career Readiness: A Pocket Guide for State and District Leaders, to support state and local policymakers and practitioners as they implement the college and career readiness initiatives included in their state Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility plans. Currently, 34 states and the District of Columbia are working to actualize flexibility plans that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education elected to waive specific requirements of ESEA in exchange for planned state reforms related to four principles: (1) achieving college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) developing differentiated recognition, accountability, and support systems; (3) supporting effective instruction and leadership; and (4) reducing duplication and unnecessary burden. The pocket guide focuses on Principle 1 and provides a summary of college and career readiness initiatives states plan to undertake to fulfill its requirements.

Of the 34 states and the District of Columbia whose flexibility plans have been approved:

  • 32 states and the District of Columbia plan to implement the Common Core State Standards.
  • Though all states are required to implement rigorous college and career readiness English Language arts and math standards, 14 states and the District of Columbia are also focusing on rigorous standards in other content areas including science, social studies, social and emotional learning, and career and technical education (CTE).
  • Almost all states are increasing efforts to enroll students in advanced coursework. Twenty-nine states are expanding access to dual enrollment, 29 states are emphasizing advanced placement coursework, and 16 states are focusing on International Baccalaureate courses. The District of Columbia plans to utilize all three strategies.
  • 14 state plans plus the District of Columbia’s plan incorporate CTE initiatives including alignment of CTE and core academic standards, integration with higher education, and increased certification for high school students enrolled in CTE. 
  • 31 states and the District of Columbia are participating in one or both of the Common Core State Standards assessment consortia. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia are exclusively participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), 11 states are exclusively participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), and five states are participating in both.

In addition to the state plan summaries, the pocket guide includes key considerations for implementation of initiatives, and examples of state-level promising practices in ensuring that all students are ready for postsecondary success. The pocket guide is the second in a series of three designed to provide support for state implementation of the ESEA flexibility plans. The first pocket guide in the series, Supporting English Language Learners: A Pocket Guide for State and District Leaders, can be accessed here.

Megan Sambolt is a researcher with the College and Career Readiness Group at American Institutes for Research and co-author of the pocket guide.

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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