Priorities for College and Career Readiness

While the goal of a K–12 education was once high-school graduation, the focus has now shifted to college and career readiness.
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While the goal of a K–12 education was once high-school graduation, the focus has now shifted to college and career readiness.

While the goal of a K–12 education was once high-school graduation, the focus has now shifted to college and career readiness. Although this change has been painful, uneven, and revealing for many educators, there is good news: we are getting there. The better news is we know much more about how to achieve these new goals than ever before.

While there are many programs, initiatives, and actions an educator may consider to “implement” college and career readiness, there are three key priorities that offer immediate impact and can be easily accomplished with existing tools.

Know the Reading Level of Every Student

The increased complexity of nonfiction texts that students must read is the greatest shift in educational expectations. Because it’s critical that students therefore have a higher level of reading comprehension, it’s essential to measure and monitor students’ reading skills with precision and vigilance. By providing grade-appropriate texts at each student’s individual reading level, and then following up with direct instruction around grade-level complex text, educators can help students to build the close-reading skills needed to master more challenging materials.

For maximum accuracy, use Lexile® levels to measure both student ability and text complexity. Don’t trust publishers when they label materials as “below level” or “on level”—use Lexile levels to verify the complexity of every text.

Align with Today’s Digital Assessments

Ten percent of K-12 students nationwide underperformed on the new high-stakes assessments due to a lack of technology skills: they struggled with navigation, were unfamiliar with the technology-enhanced items, and reported challenges with online highlighting and editing tools.

In fact, one third of all students who took the online college and career readiness assessments in spring 2015 reported that the English language arts tests were more difficult than their class work, and 16 percent of students said they were unfamiliar with the types of tasks on the ELA assessments.

Now that we know what the new assessments look like, we need to align our instruction accordingly. Students need to become familiar with digital content that includes editing and highlighting tools. They also need practice with activities that resemble the types of tasks and technology-enhanced items they will see on the new assessments.

Focus on Deeper Comprehension

Students are expected to read more informational text than ever before, which means they need to develop comprehension strategies that allow for a deeper understanding of content. Fortunately, many activities that drive language acquisition and literacy growth can also be used to build advanced comprehension skills.

Encourage students to generate questions, summarize, and form opinions during class discussion, collaboration, and debate activities. Require students to focus on substantive issues in the text, use appropriate academic terms, and refer to relevant and sufficient evidence during augmentation. This type of targeted and accountable talk increases students’ vocabulary, deepens their critical-thinking skills, and improves comprehension.

For Immediate—and Lasting—Impact

To ensure successful college and career readiness outcomes, use programs that measure the reading levels of your students and provide appropriately complex text. Study the released items for the new assessments and implement curricular tools that are aligned to the types of tasks on the tests. Find resources that are designed for, and supportive of, focused, collaborative discussion in the classroom. By prioritizing these kinds of instructional strategies, you can help all of your students get ahead on the path to college and career success.

Kevin Baird is the Chairman of the Center for College and Career Readiness and serves on the Achieve3000 Educational Leadership Council.



itslearning WEBINAR ALERT: Change Management: Houston ISD’s Mission To Support 21st Century Learners promo image

itslearning Webinar Alert: College and Career Readiness Through Project-Based Learning

WHAT: A free webinar showing K-12 educators and administrators how project-based learning can drive a new rigor so that all students are career and college ready.   PRESENTERS:   Barbara Bray, Creative Learning Officer and co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC, who has been focusing on project-based learning, coaching, and creating learner-centered environments for over 25 years.   Josh Giebel, mathematics facilitator at Columbus Signature Academy, a magnet school with a focus on PBL.   WHEN:  Wednesday, September 21st – 2pm EST   REGISTER:

Irving (TX) Independent School District Selects WIN Learning’s Personalized Career Readiness System To Prepare Every Student for College and Work

Web-based program delivers career-driven education and workforce-skills development for middle and high school students   Kingston, TN  - March 19, 2013 – While a high school diploma was once sufficient to secure a stable job with benefits, almost two-thirds of new jobs in the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy now require some postsecondary education and/or training.[1]  Furthermore, workplace readiness demands a higher level of knowledge and skills than ever before.  To effectively prepare its students for life after high school by teaching them the skills and knowledge that are essential to college and workforce readiness, Irving Independent School District (ISD) in Texas will implement WIN Learning’s Personalized Career Readiness System. [1] Source: C. Sturgis and S. Patrick, “When Success is the Only Option: Designing Competency-Based Pathways for Next Generation Learning” November, 2010

Aransas Pass Superintendent Dr. Royce Avery to Present at TASA 2014: “How Schools Can Better Ensure Career and College Ready Students”

Aransas Pass Superintendent Dr. Royce Avery to Present at TASA 2014: “How Schools Can Better Ensure Career and College Ready Students” District’s Personalized Career Readiness System, based on “Educonomy” model, helps address new diploma endorsement requirements of Texas House Bill 5Kingston, Tenn. – Sept. 20, 2013 – Career and college readiness is an important topic of conversation across the nation, but even more so in Texas where the recently passed House Bill 5 requires districts to offer more options to prepare students for success after high school, be it direct workforce entry, a post-secondary vocational program, community college, or enrollment in a traditional four-year institution. The bill also encourages school districts to partner with area colleges and industry to develop rigorous courses that relate to the area economy and can count toward graduation standards.


District Piloting WIN Learning’s Personalized Career Readiness System With Soft Skills-Based Training, Personalized Project-Based Learning And Career Exploration Program Kingston, Tenn. – June 12, 2014 – Bob Dylan’s lyrics, “The times, they are a-changin’,” have never been more relevant as educators face new mandates for preparing students for the future. School administrators must ensure their high school graduates are both college and career ready.  The importance of this demands that schools enhance their curriculum offerings to help student develop the essential academic and soft skills.