College and Career Standards Implemented Across the Country

Mar 02, 2010

A recent report shows that the number of states that have adopted college- and career-readiness standards in high school education has grown exponentially since 2005. However, many states are still lagging on other important measures such as graduation requirements, assessments and comprehensive accountability systems.

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States Show Steady Improvement in Preparing Students for College and Career

The study, ''Closing the Expectations Gap, 2010'', was conducted by Achieve, a Washington, D.C.-based bi-partisan non-profit comprised of governors and corporate leaders. It's their fifth progress report on how states are changing their education policies to better prepare high school students for college and careers.

Achieve began the annual studies in 2005, when they co-sponsored the National Education Summit on High Schools. The summit drew attention to the fact that most public schools were inadequately preparing students for challenges after high school, and 13 states subsequently formed the American Diploma Project Network. The group, which has since grown to 35 states, promotes high school standards, graduation requirements, assessments and accountability systems that will ready students for the demands of higher education and the workforce. Achieve tracks the nationwide progress of this movement in their annual reports, published on the anniversary of the 2005 summit.

State-Level Progress in Implementing Core Standards

From Closing the Expectations Gap, 2010, page 2.

States have made significant progress in the implementation of core standards. In 2005, only three states had developed high school standards designed to meet the expectations of college and the workplace. Now, only five years later, 31 states have adopted these standards. The education standards movement has gained much of its momentum recently - eight of those states just implemented core standards in the past year.

Educational standards are a popular cause in the current education reform movement. President Obama has indicated that he'd like to tie Title I funding to school districts to the adoption of core reading and math standards. Common standards are being promoted heavily by the Common Core Standards Initiative, led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center).

The initiative argues that the development of common standards is 'a critical first step to bringing about real and meaningful transformation of our education system to benefit all students.' Among other things, common standards set the bar high for college and career preparation, and help combat the geographical inequities in our nation's public schools. With our current system, students in one school may receive a much lower quality education than students in another school just miles away. This creates a vicious cycle in which kids who are disadvantaged by poverty and circumstance don't get the education they need to improve their lives. Common core standards help ensure that all students get a chance at an education that will prepare them for college and their future careers.

State-Level Progress in Implementing Various College and Career Readiness Measures

From Closing the Expectations Gap, 2010, page 2.


The other areas that the Achieve surveys focus on have seen some improvement since 2005, but all are lagging - especially the incorporation of college- and career-readiness measures into accountability systems. These systems are crucial to the success of education reform because they allow policymakers to track the progress of their reforms and make improvements where necessary. In their survey, Achieve asks states about the inclusion of four key indicators, looking at the percentage of high school students who:

  • Earn a college- and career-ready diploma
  • Get a readiness score on a college- and career-ready high school assessment
  • Earn college credit while still in high school
  • Have to take remedial courses when they enter college

The survey also asks states how they utilize information obtained from the indicators above, such as creating incentives for improvement, public reporting and setting statewide goals. Twenty-two states have implemented at least one of the above measures, but only one - Texas - has incorporated all four into their education accountability system.

High School Graduate

Graduation Requirements

After standards, graduation requirements is the area that has improved most in the past five years. As of this year, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have established college- and career-oriented high school graduation requirements. That's up from only three since 2005. Graduation requirements are important because they ensure that individual achievement has actually reached the level set by college- and career-readiness standards before students go out into the world.

P-20 Data Systems

P-20 data systems allow educators to track student progress beyond grade 12. These longitudinal data systems match postsecondary student-level data with information gathered during the K-12 years, thus helping schools get a clearer picture of how effective their college and career preparation really is. In 2005, only three states were using P-20 data systems, but now 16 states report gathering this information. All 50 states plus D.C. indicate that they're working on implementing longitudinal data systems.


Finally, the Achieve survey looks at how many states administer high school student assessments that are used by postsecondary institutions to measure students' readiness for college. These assessments can be used to track students' progress in math, reading and writing and ensure that they're meeting the standards required to succeed in college. When properly administered, the assessments help identify students who need extra assistance and get them caught up before graduation time.

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