New 50-State Data Tool Exposes College and Career ‘Readiness Gap’

Associate Editor

Researchers probing a new, interactive “data explorer” that matches students’ outcomes with college and career readiness measures found that—while nearly all students are graduating from high school in some states—fewer than half are considered ready for college or careers.

The digital database, released by non-profit organization Achieve, is a one-stop aggregation of available information that connects student outcomes with college and career readiness indicators from all 50 states.

The results from the researchers’ investigations aren’t encouraging, according to the Washington-based policy organization.

Gaps in high school graduates’ readiness for college, the military, or the job market abound, and major holes exist in the information that could make the data more meaningful.

“Far too many states still lack transparency in public reporting,” the organization said in its announcement. Examples include data that are not disaggregated by subgroups of students, data that aren’t reported in a timely manner, or that aren’t reported at all.

Achieve’s collection of the college- and career-ready standards, and measurement of data, could be of interest to state policymakers, district leaders, teachers, parents, and businesses seeking to hire graduates ready for the workforce, said Marie O’Hara, Achieve’s director of research, in an interview. “It’s a way to better understand what students are coming away with, and to ask if it’s enough,” she said.

Forty of the 46 states that have defined a college- and career-ready measure have also included it as part of their high school accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act, according to O’Hara. A state-by-state comparison table shows that these college- and career-ready measures vary markedly in what they include, who they include, and how they’re reported, if they are.

The indicators tracked are:

  • 4-year graduation rate
  • College- and career-ready coursework completion
  • 9th grade on track
  • College- and career-ready assessments
  • College- and career-ready measures
  • Earning college credit in high school
  • Post-secondary enrollment.

“What will be really interesting is to see how these measures evolve,” said O’Hara.

Recently, several education groups recommended that states prepare their new plans for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which will fully kick in for the 2020-21 school year, be aligned with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and use CTE programs as a school improvement tool.

Achieve has been monitoring the adoption of college- and career-ready standards and assessments for nearly 15 years. “A few years ago, we thought it might be a good time to look at the outcomes themselves,” said O’Hara.

The organization also has played a major role in developing the Common Core State Standards, the PARCC assessments, and the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as tools designed to evaluate the alignment of instructional materials and tests.

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