College and Career Readiness: The Goal for America's Educational System
"The goal for America’s educational system is clear:
Every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a career."
United States Department of Education, Office of Planning,
Evaluation and Policy Development, ESEA Blueprint for Reform, 2010, p. 7
It is becoming clear that it is equally important for career-bound students and college bound students to receive a strong K-12 education (Boykin, Dougherty, & Lummus-Robinson, 2010; CTE, NASDECTE & P21, 2010). A study titled, Ready for College and Ready for Work: Same or Different (2006) concluded that the knowledge required for entry-level workers is nearly the same knowledge and skills required for college-going students. According to Achieve and the Education Trust (2008): “The old dichotomies of ‘college bound’ and ‘work bound’ no longer apply” (p. 7).
The traditional American high school has long represented a critical decision point at which students must choose to pursue college or a career” (Richmond, 2010, p. 1). The foundation of the American comprehensive high school was “based on students’ choosing between educational programs that lead to different futures or having the choice made for them by adults” (Conley, 2010, p. 6). According to the National Governors Association (2012), “There is a national consensus that schools should focus on students’ college and career readiness” (p. 3).
“As long as the system functioned under the assumption that only a small portion of students will go on to college, the current model of college preparation was largely unchallenged and unexamined” (Conley, 2009, p. 5). Today’s high schools must offer more than education for just one option or the other. To prepare students for success in life, the twenty-first century American high school needs to shift its focus from preparing for college or career to achieving college and career readiness for every student (Richmond, 2010, p. 3).
Saunders, a professor at the University of Mississippi, described the perspective of many Americans at the turn of the century. Saunders (1903) wrote, "College education is desirable and theoretically necessary for preeminence, but it is not for the masses, and it would be but a utopian theory to plan for the day when a bachelor's degree shall be a qualification for suffrage or a necessity for success and happiness" (p. 73).
Aldrich (1933) wrote, “If the children from the laboring groups are coming into our high schools in greater numbers, we must be more concerned with the training of this new type of pupil” (p. 489). Feingold (1934), a high school principal, gave a speech and declared, "The bulk of our high school population is moronic and unfit for the profitable pursuit of high school studies, as we know them. We have been hearing of late, for instance, that 50 percent of high school enrollment is made up of the sons and daughters of conductors, factory workers and scrubwomen, and since they will themselves become motormen, truck drivers, and charwomen, the education of the high school ought to be of a type which will prepare them for that sort of life" (pp. 828-829).
“The reality is that whether students go to a four-year college or to other postsecondary training, they do, indeed, need the same rigorous academic preparation in high school” (Murray, 2012, p. 60). “The goal of college and career readiness for all high school graduates is no longer a radical reform idea promulgated by a handful of states: It has emerged as the new norm throughout the nation” (Achieve, 2010, p. 23).
As another school year comes to an end, high schools across the United States will have Senior Night, Senior Recognition Assemblies, or Scholarship and Awards Ceremonies. Traditionally, these events recognized the Rhodes Scholar, the AP Scholars, the FFA Student of the Year, the Valedictorian, the National Merit Finalists, students accepted to the nation's military academies, and students who received scholarships from two-year or four-year colleges and universities. While each of these students deserve the praise and recognition, they represent approximately ten percent or less of the senior class. Some students will walk across the stage multiple times to collect scholarships and medals of recognition.
Traditionally, teachers and guidance counselors have focused on preparing a small number of students for college and the remainder of the graduating class for the workforce. This article provides historical evidence of the original mission of public high schools. The goal of the American high school has changed from sorting and selecting to preparing all students for postsecondary opportunities. “It is no longer enough to just ensure that all students are prepared to walk through the entrance doors of high school or college; nor is it acceptable to track students onto educational paths that limit their opportunities. In today’s global and entrepreneurial economy, every student must also be able to walk out of the building with a meaningful diploma, prepared for success in the twenty-first century.” (Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic Enterprises, and the Data Quality Campaign, 2011, p. 1).
Questions and Resources for Educators to Consider
1. How can I support College and Career Readiness for all students?
2. What does our school do to promote College and Career Readiness for all students?
3. How does the role of the K-12 Guidance Counselor change when the goal is College and Career Readiness for all students? (See College and Career Readiness Video - 3:30)
4. What data should educators collect and analyze if we are going to prepare students to become College and Career Ready? (See Eight Components of College and Career Readiness Counseling)
5. How do we communicate the goal of College and Career Readiness to students and families?
6. Do educators in our school have a common definition/understanding of the term College and Career Readiness?
7. What skills do students need to have to be College-Ready?
What skills do students need to have to be Career-Ready?
References (available upon request)