Friday, October 15, 2010

College and Career Readiness

Very soon, the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) will release the High School Feedback Report for the graduating class of 2008. The report will be available on the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Open House Web page. This report is a valuable tool to help universities, school districts, parents and policy makers better understand the preparation level of our high school graduates.

KDE recently released the first College and Career Readiness Report for the graduating class of 2010. What are the major differences in the two reports? The CPE report tracks the students from graduation through enrollment in postsecondary and reports students who actually enrolled in postsecondary. The KDE report shows all students who graduated from high school and the college/career readiness of the students. The CPE report shows that about 60 percent of graduates from Kentucky high schools actually enrolled in postsecondary and about 50 percent of those students met CPE benchmarks for college readiness (this includes ACT and college placement tests). The KDE report shows that 34 percent of all 2010 public high school graduates met ACT or career-ready requirements. The two reports show very similar results, with the CPE report showing that about 30 percent of high school graduates were ready for college and the KDE report showing about 34 percent ready for college/career.

ACT recently released a major report on college readiness entitled Mind the Gaps: How College Readiness Narrows achievement Gaps in College Success. This report has three major recommendations.

1. “Close the gap between student aspirations and high school course plans by ensuring that all students take at least the core curriculum in high school.“ The Kentucky Board of Education has established requirements for a high school diploma that include the core curriculum requirements recommended by ACT. The challenge for Kentucky is to ensure course content across the state meets the rigor needed to be successful in college/career. The current work on the common core standards for college and career readiness will establish a framework; however, close monitoring of actual delivery of content will be a local school district issue.

2. “Close the gap in the alignment of high school courses with college and career readiness standards by focusing high school courses on the essential standards for college and career readiness.” This is the work that KDE is currently leading in eight regional networks across Kentucky. More than 1,000 teachers, principals and instructional supervisors are working closely with college faculty to ensure the alignment of high school and K-8 curriculum to the common core standards for college and career readiness. Kentucky is also one of 12 states working with the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) to develop curriculum that integrates college and career standards within comprehensive courses of study that will lead to career certifications.

3. “Close the gap in the quality of high school courses across schools by offering all students rigorous high school core courses that cover the essential knowledge and skills needed for college and career readiness in sufficient depth and intensity.” The equity of course offerings across high schools in Kentucky will be a major challenge. Small and rural high schools may not have course enrollment, instruction, equipment, materials or other resources necessary for the math, science and other courses that are part of the required core curriculum. The Governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force is working on recommendations for virtual delivery and funding models that should help address the equity and access issues.

In the PDK/Gallup 2010 poll, we find that more than 90 percent of parents believe that a postsecondary experience is necessary to ensure a better quality of life. More than 90 percent of 2010 public high school graduates in Kentucky indicate a desire to attend postsecondary institutions. The data from the two reports mentioned earlier show that only 60 percent of graduates actually enroll in postsecondary, and about 50 percent of those enrolling are college/career ready for the postsecondary experience.

By taking the three recommendations from ACT and fully implementing these recommendations in every school district in Kentucky, we can ensure a brighter future for the graduates and for Kentucky.

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