College and career readiness has become a key priority for all public schools. Yet the term “college and career ready” is defined differently at each school site and by educators.

Typically, educators define college and career readiness by a student’s ability to be accepted into a postsecondary institution and to land an entry- level job after graduation. While this is somewhat correct, it really does not define college and career readiness.

One common definition of college and career readiness is having the necessary academic skills to pass a credit-bearing postsecondary class or a job training program without the need for remediation. This generally means that a student has the academic background to do college-level work. This same student also obtains the necessary competencies (skills) to increase their earning potential in a career of his or her choosing.

While academic knowledge is a key part of being college and career- ready, it is only one facet of what is needed to be successful in a postsecondary option and in a particular career industry. Students also need to demonstrate independence, self-determination, social and emotional skills and attitudes (e.g. maturity, resiliency, self-management, self-advocacy) to transition into college or a work environment.

Theoretically, if a learner is exposed to both these facets, he or she will mostly likely make a successful transition to college and to work. If this is the case, how our schools teaching college and career readiness? Are schools making an effort to introduce both components of college readiness.

Teaching College and Career Readiness in Public Schools

A majority of schools focus mainly on academic skills to ensure college and career success. Elementary education emphasizes foundational knowledge (i.e., writing basics and mathematical procedures). High Schools’ instructional program are grounded in the four core academic disciplines (i.e., Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and History) to help students meet college admission requirements and to earn a high score on entrance exams to either a post secondary institute or to a job training program.

Districts are starting to understand that learners need non-classroom experience (i.e., internships, work-study) to become college and career ready. More school districts are looking into implementing career academies in order to help develop work-based behaviors (soft skills). Career academies allow students to develop hands-on work experience and soft skills while simultaneously developing core academics skills.

It has become apparent that in order for students to become college and career ready ,they need to access to multiple types of academic knowledge, skills and work-based behavior.


  • Icon courtesy from Ivan Boyko

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