By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki
It is universally recognized that two very important goals of K-12 education – if not the most important goals – are college readiness and career readiness. But what are college readiness and career readiness exactly and how do they differ?
A large majority of states in the U.S. have studied the issue and provided their definitions and views on college and career readiness. These are summarized in the report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR):
The vast majority of the states whose views were summarized in the report, placed career and college readiness together within a common definition.
One simple definition for college readiness is the possession of a sufficient background in math, science, and English language arts that one can succeed in postsecondary course work without a need for remediation classes. But we also intuitively understand that it takes more than a high school academic background to complete a college education.
The definition of career readiness is more specific to the line of work in question. “A Career Ready student possesses both the necessary knowledge and technical skills needed for employment in their desired career field. For example, a student who is ready to become a teacher not only possesses knowledge of education policy, but also possesses all required certifications required to become a teacher.” – DC.gov web site
Because of the needs of our advanced, technical economy, career readiness increasingly demands a similar level of knowledge and skills as college readiness.
The major categories covered in the state definitions from the AIR report included:
- Academic knowledge
- Critical thinking and/or problem solving
- Social and emotional learning, collaboration, and/or communication
- Citizenship and/or community involvement
- Other additional activities
The report concludes:
“State definitions included in this review reflect the recognition that readiness for college and careers is multifaceted, encompassing academic readiness, as well as knowledge, abilities, and dispositions that impact academic achievement. Research on this latter group is still emerging and, in some instances, is controversial as we have yet to conclusively determine the impact that instruction and educational supports can have on the development of these lifelong learning skills.”
So in plain English, the definitions from the states recognize the need to go beyond academic knowledge to incorporate the development of mental abilities and attitudes that will support achievement by students in their college studies and/or careers. These especially include critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills, and the ability to persevere in the face of challenges.
Yet education is structured primarily around the academic knowledge acquisition category. The Common Core State Standards were designed to promote critical thinking and application of academic knowledge to real-world problems.
CCSSO is the Council of Chief State School Officers – the leaders of K-12 education in the various U.S. states. Over 80% of the states in the U.S. have signed on to the recommendations of their Task Force on Career Readiness. You can read more about their Career Readiness Initiative, at:
There is a significant consensus that the categories numbered above as 2, 3, 4 and even 5 can be developed and supported by project-based learning. Project-based learning provides a natural methodology for structuring lessons that require critical thinking and problem-solving, perseverance, and collaboration.
Searching on “project” within the Curriki resources library brings up over 6000 resources. For example, you can find a collection of biology projects here: http://library.curriki.org/oer/Biology-Projects/ . Make use of Curriki’s freely available, open resources to help your students become more college-ready and more career-ready.