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What Does it Mean to be College and Career Ready?

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High school students across the country are told they must be prepared for postsecondary education or a skilled profession in the workplace. The phrase used is "college and career readiness." What does this expression mean to students, parents and educators? The meaning remains unclear to many.

The American Association of School Administrators has initiated a national campaign to redefine college and career readiness called Redefining Ready.

Redefining Ready is a national campaign launched by the AASA to introduce new research-based metrics to more appropriately assess that students are college ready, career ready and life ready.

On its website, https://www.redefiningready.org/, it says: "Standardized test scores — traditionally used as the primary readiness indicator — do not always provide an accurate representation of our students’ potential. Like the global economy, today’s students are driven by ideas and innovations. They should not be reduced down to, or defined by, a single test score."

College and career readiness presumes students know more than just content knowledge. They can demonstrate what they know and are able to use and build upon that knowledge to solve problems. They are able to communicate effectively and work collaboratively, competitively and productively in a school or work environment. A student who is prepared possesses academic skills and technical skills along with a strong work ethic necessary for a career beyond the classroom.

In the traditional educational system, students’ readiness is measured by school attendance, courses completed, grade level completion, grades on report cards, grade point averages, number of assignments/worksheets completed, and local, state and national tests. So instead of learning how to learn and be ready for the next phase of life after high school, many kids are learning how to be good at going to school. The straight-A student is, in nearly every traditional educational setting, the one who has figured out what the teacher wants and how to deliver it.

Most children come to school filled with questions, are excited about learning and are engaged in their learning but exit years later asking very few questions, feeling less excited and being less engaged. Students’ interest and engagement begin to decline as students transition to the next grade levels, and the reason isn’t that a child’s desire for knowledge has been fulfilled or they know everything they want or need to know. It’s because students begin to think that school is a place where one learns how to be good at going to school.

The bottom line is that all high school graduates need to be prepared for some postsecondary education and/or training if they are to have choices and opportunities in the job market. As such, our education system should be preparing students to learn how to learn and how to enjoy it. The world is changing so rapidly that by the time a student graduates from a postsecondary institution, some of what he or she learned may not be relevant.

What a student needs to know is not what to think but how to think in order to face new challenges and solve new problems. Being "college and career ready" in the end means that students are prepared for their next steps, resulting in the understanding that all options remain open to them as they continue to pursue their education and their careers.

The North Platte School District’s purpose is to prepare our students to become productive, responsible citizens. As the district and community work collaboratively to accomplish this purpose, the district is currently working on redefining what it means to be college and career ready by involving students, teachers, parents and businesses.

All students should graduate from high school ready for college, careers and citizenship.


Dr. Ron Hanson 
Superintendent 
North Platte Schools