States get framework for creating college- and career-readiness goals

How can states help create K-12 education systems that better prepare students for careers and college? This article looks at a potential policy framework, as well as some examples of approaches being taken in Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Stateline Midwest, Volume 19, No. 10 - November 2010

An August report by the National Governors Association offers policymakers guidance on how to define statewide college- and career-readiness performance goals for high school graduates.

According to the NGA Issues Brief, education performance measures typically used by states lack information about whether a student is ready to succeed in college and/or work. The NGA recommends a set of five “power indicators” that, at minimum, states should track and report on.

For example, how many high school students are completing a college- and career-ready course of study, obtaining college credit or earning a career certificate? What percentage are demonstrating proficiency on “anchor” assessments, which indicate whether students are prepared for postsecondary options? And what percentage of traditional, first-year college students are in need of remedial coursework?

The NGA recommends that these indicators be used to define statewide goals and to measure progress. Along with recommending a policy framework for states, the NGA report includes some examples of promising approaches already being taken.

  • In Indiana and Ohio, each school receives a report that compares its performance on college- and career-ready indicators to the performance of the state as a whole.
  • Wisconsin has successfully expanded the number of students taking Advanced Placement Program exams and courses. For example, assessments are used to identify students likely to master AP coursework, but who might not have been viewed as traditional AP students. The state has also used a federal grant to increase participation among minority students.
  • In Minnesota, more-rigorous academic standards and graduation requirements are in place. In addition, every student must have a college-level learning experience before graduating high school.

This increased interest in developing statewide college- and career-ready goals is being driven by at least two factors.

First, the demand for individuals with post-secondary education or training is growing: By 2012, 63 percent of jobs will require such a background, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Second, many students aren’t prepared for postsecondary work: Only 23 percent of ACT test-takers meet readiness benchmarks for college-level coursework in English, reading, mathematics and science; in addition, at least 40 percent of students entering postsecondary education require remediation in math or reading.