College And Career Readiness: Systemic, Not Siloed
Historically, persistent gaps have exposed serious college and career readiness (CCR) challenges in education. One such gap exists between the number of students who aspire to go to college versus those who actually attend, and another between those who attend and those who finish. Those who attend have often faced a gap between their preparedness and the postsecondary requirements. On the career side, many students do not feel adequately prepared for the transition to the workplace, either via their education, prior experience, or so-called “soft skills.” Addressing these gaps has become a major focus in the field, with mixed results.
These challenges stubbornly persist in part because postsecondary requirements and career planning are frequently not embedded enough in the world outside the counseling office. When you allow college and career readiness to be shunted off into a silo in a single area of one or two buildings and/or you don’t have a robust CCR platform established to amplify student services, your college and career readiness programming isn’t able to reach its fullest expression. Let’s take a minute to talk about how you can establish a systemic and sustainable college and career readiness program across your entire district, not just one location.
Districtwide Goal Setting: Begin With The End In Mind
As John Kotter reminded us in the business classic Leading Change, organizational change efforts are jeopardized when you don’t establish organizational urgency or embed the initiative within the existing culture. Just as important, especially when attempting to establish a new framework in schools, is what he had to say about vision: create it, over communicate it, and empower others to act on it.
From the outset, engage your students, teachers, counselors, other staff members, parents, and your community and business partners in the process of determining what the end state of the initial push will look like. You might have seen it called a “portrait of a graduate” or a “portrait of a learner.” In the end, what matters is that, in partnership with your internal and external stakeholders, you have determined what a districtwide college and career readiness program looks like, K (or Pre-K) through 12, and specific ways in which every student will benefit from it, taking into account necessary progress monitoring and desired outcomes.
Data-Driven Decision Making And Progress Monitoring
As part of your initial and ongoing conversations, what metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) will you want to keep track of to help measure the success of your college and career readiness initiative and to inform future decision making? For example, the national Redefining Ready! initiative launched by AASA, the School Superintendent’s Association identified the following indicators of student readiness:
- College Readiness Academic Indicators: Advanced Placement (AP), college preparatory and/or dual-credit course grades, and AP and/or International Baccalaureate exam scores, in addition to traditional standardized testing benchmarks (SAT/ACT/college placement exams)
- College Readiness - Other Factors: Grades, completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), participation in college advising and/or bridge programs, and participation in senior year/post-Algebra II math coursework.
- Career Readiness: Attendance, community service, workplace learning experiences and/or industry credentials, co-curricular participation, and ASVAB scores.
Secure Buy-In From Your Stakeholders
In addition to developing the vision with your internal and external stakeholders, think about how you will sustain that buy-in (particularly faculty and staff) over time. For example, teachers should remain an integral part of any progress monitoring team, and time should be allotted for ongoing, relevant, job-specific professional development (PD) aligned with lesson objectives and activities staff can implement immediately for the benefit of students.
For example, you might decide to encourage buy-in through the classroom observation and evaluation process. In an organic way, you simply ask the teacher what college and career applications you can expect to see during an upcoming observation. The idea is to show your enthusiasm and help the teacher get excited to show students how they might apply the lesson to future postsecondary requirements and career planning. During the observation post-conference, you’ll have the opportunity to reinforce their good work in this area. As a bonus, you can use the time to see how comfortable the teacher is with the new technology tools that have been rolled out to support the process. Speaking of which...
Leverage Technology: The College and Career Readiness Platform
The complexity of the above steps requires that you find smart, efficient tools to help you in your quest to embed college and career readiness districtwide. Leverage available technology to make it work for you and your students. For example, do you have a career matching platform that provides tailored information for your students about the practical steps they need to take to explore a given career path? Do you have a CCR platform that helps students track and make sense of their own data points? If not, how will you implement one? How will you show people the value in it? How will you support both the initial rollout and provide the ongoing support needed to sustain the use of the tool? With all of these factors in place, you will have built a one-stop shop to connect student interests to future college and career plans and how they can make those plans a reality.
Make College And Career Readiness a Permanent, Sustainable Initiative
Nobody needs another “I heard about this at a workshop and we should do it!” initiative right now. Or ever. Given the challenges of the last few years and the concomitant compassion fatigue and burnout in the profession, we need smart, effective, sustainable initiatives now more than ever.
Because you took the time to plan the strategy in full partnership with your stakeholders, and because it’s being implemented district-wide and not just being borne by counselors and a smattering of teachers, you have already taken the first steps toward a more sustainable focus on college and career readiness. As you go, plan for gradual release with smaller, more frequent checkpoints as opposed to all-day “sit and get” PD sessions. Empower teachers to lead by example. College and career readiness will soon cease to be just another buzzword initiative and will instead become part of your district’s DNA.
Creating a sustainable, districtwide college and career readiness framework starts with having a central, modern platform to support it. SchooLinks was built to do just that.