The Policy Push for College and
Career Readiness
Elena Silva
December 9, 2010
Education Sector is an independent, nonprofit education organization—a
hybrid of public policy and journalism.
Our work crosses K-12 and higher education and focuses on a range of
issues including accountability, educator and institutional quality, testing
and assessment, and virtual learning.
Our mission is to promote changes in policy and practice that lead to
improved student opportunities and outcomes. Our key audiences are
federal, state, and local policymakers; educators; the press; and other
thought leaders and policy actors. Our experience shows that these
leaders embrace reform when it is justified by thoughtful, independent
analysis that is clearly communicated.
Current Drivers of Education Policy
1. Urgency to ensure quality education for poor
children= “student-centered” reforms
2. Building on standards and accountability
3. Administration’s priorities: (1) adopt rigorous
college- and career-ready standards and
assessments; (2) establish data systems and
use data for improvement; (3) increase
teacher effectiveness; and (4) turn around
low-performing schools.
Agreement that College & Career Ready
(aka “CCR”) is an essential goal…
In announcing the guidelines for the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund in
late 2009, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for states to
ensure that “students exiting one level are prepared for success, without
remediation, in the next.”
NGA defines a CCR student as “an individual that is ready to succeed in
entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses and in workforce
training programs…toward careers that offer competitive, livable salaries
above the poverty line; offer opportunities for career advancement; and
are in a growing or sustainable industry.”*
* National Governors Association, “Common Core State Standards Initiative: Standards-Setting Criteria”
(Washington, D.C.: 2009).
After all, far too few students are CCR…
 In 2010, only 24% of h.s. graduates met all four ACT
College Readiness Benchmarks (math, English, reading,
Science), meaning that 76% were not adequately prepared
academically for first-year college courses in English
Composition, College Algebra, social sciences, and
 The majority of entering freshmen require remedial
coursework of some kind.
Why this problem? Because…
 Today’s high school diploma = college eligibility, not
readiness. Despite decades long standards movement,
still focused on classes completed, time spent, low-bar
 K-12 and Postsecondary expectations are disconnected
e.g. 12th-grade English curriculum that emphasizes
literature compared to typical entry-level college English
class, which stresses expository reading and writing.
 Consequently, teachers don’t emphasize readiness,
and assessments don’t measure readiness.
And because we still haven’t figured out
some basic questions…
1. What combination of content and skills do students really
need to succeed after high school?
2. How best to assess student learning?
Policy Momentum
 Common Core Standards—where the 21st c. skills debate
can finally rest?
 Common Assessments---convergence of conventional
standardized tests (reliable and necessary for
accountability) and newer models of assessment, via new
technologies (expensive, less reliable, but more
meaningful for student learning)?
Common Core Standards
 In 2005, Achieve, an independent, non-profit group of state officials
created the American Diploma Project Network(ADP), which
proposed that all 50 states and DC align high school curriculum,
standards and assessments to career and college readiness (and
adopt data systems that track from K through college graduation).
Expanded quickly, set stage for…
 2009 launch of the Common Core State Standards Initiative—under
NGA and CCSSO---to develop a common core of state K–12 ELA
and math standards that are college and career ready;
internationally benchmarked; consistent for all students; and
focused, clear, and coherent. Released in June, 2010.
 44 states on board as of last week. http://www.corestandards.org/
Common Core Standards
“To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological
society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate,
synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original
research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to
analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and
nonprint texts in media forms old and new.
The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is
embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion,
research and media skills and understandings are embedded
throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.”
Common Assessments
 Two large state consortia have won federal funding awards
totaling $330 million to design and implement comprehensive
assessment systems that align with the common standards in
math and ELA.
 The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and
Careers, or PARCC, is managed by Achieve, has 26 member
states (led by Florida), and won a $170 million award.
 The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, with 31
member states (led by Washington), won a $160 million award.
Common Assessments
 Agreement that the use of new technologies to deliver and
score tests will be key to any future system — not only to allow for
more innovative item types beyond multiple choice, but also to
control costs.
 Shared commitment to combination of summative (end of
course tests), and formative (through-course/interim
 Performance-based tasks that “measure the full range of
knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college and 21st
century careers” (PARCC).
 By the 2014-2015 school year, assessments will be in use in
any state that adopts them.
Considerations and Concerns
 Heavy Lifting. States, districts, schools and classroom teachers
will be overwhelmed by the scope of changes planned for the
next five years.
 Time and Money. Is there enough?
 Alignment with other reforms. Teacher policy, data systems
development (combine existing college and career outcome
data with assessment).
 Open source? Shared infrastructure?
Elena Silva
[email protected]