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College and Career Readiness

College and Career Readiness

What does college and career readiness mean? We hear it everywhere in the education reform community; however, there is no single agreed-upon definition. So we’d like to propose a working definition for New Mexico, as a starting point for discussion.

College and Career Readiness means the education system is designed to ensure that our children have access to both college and career paths upon graduation from high school.

  • Expanding Options: The K-12 system should open the door for students as they begin to make choices about their future. It is college AND careers, not either/or.
  • Graduation: All students are expected to graduate from high school.  This may take 3, 4, 5 or even six years based on the skills student have when they enter 9th grade and whether they need to take a leave of absence or go to school part-time so that they can work to support their families, fulfill responsibilities within their community, or take some time to explore interests.
  •  Skills, Not Just Courses: The high school diploma should indicate a level of skills, not just a set of required courses. These skills should be a combination of academic  and lifelong learning skills that can be applied to real-world problems. The Common Core of State Standards outlines these skills for English Language Arts and Mathematics.
  •  Aligned with College and Careers: There are many ways to determine if students are prepared for college and careers.  As a beginning step we might want to consider the following:
    • Academic Skills: College readiness can be defined as the skills needed to enter community college without remediation. (Community colleges use different levels for determining if students need remediation and sometimes change these cut points based on their enrollment) so it is important for state policy to clarify this). Or we might use the college-ready standards outlined by ACT (English, 18; Math, 22; Reading, 21; and Science, 24)
    • Work Experience and Career Exploration:Career readiness is a combination of demonstrating work skills as well as career exploration. Many students in our country have never had a job before they turn 18 or know about the many types of industries and jobs that can draw on their interests and talents. Thus, career alignment for an 18 year old could mean they have successfully demonstrated the professional skills needed for entry-level jobs and be able to write two career/education plans for occupations or industries that interest them.
    • Application of skills to real-world problems. Students need to have the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning to real-world problems. Not only is this a chance to go deeper in their learning, they build the real-world skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, leadership, and perseverance.
  • Transitional Support: For students whose parents did not go to college, navigating all the steps involved in tests, applications, financial aid, course selection, and financial management can be overwhelming. That’s why students need access to college courses while in high school, help with college admissions and financial aid, and support during the first year while they build the “college knowledge” that is critical to their success.


  • What do you think of this working definition? What might you want to change, delete or add?
  • What are the implications for policies, district operations, and school design?


 Achievement and Equity

 We know a lot about college and career readiness as it is heavily monitored at the national and state levels. However,

A.    What Does the Data Tell Us?

  •  Graduation: PED offers both 4- and 5-year graduation rates (but they only include 4 year in the school report card policies). The graduation rate for 2011 is 63 percent according to PED. The Hispanic graduation rate is 59.3 percent, and the Native American graduation rate is 56 percent. PED’s graduation rates can be compared against national research on graduation rates.

B.  What is the Current Policy?

  • High school graduation requirements include a set of courses and passing the High School Competency Exam.
  • New Mexico offers dual credit.
  • New Mexico is one of the 47 states embracing the Common Core of State Standards.
  • New Mexico does not have policy on serving students that are over-age and undercredited (these are students that are unlikely to graduate within 4 years). Furthermore, the data systems are somewhat out of date and do not monitor how well we help students who fall off-track to graduation, get back on track, and eventually get into college (this is sometimes called recuperation and recovery).

 Asset-Based: Good Stuff Happening in New Mexico

  • Graduation Rates: Which districts and schools have high graduation rates (4 and 5 year) for low-income students? for Hispanics? for Native Americans?
  • College and Career Going: Amy Biehl High School has a very high college-going rate among those students who graduate. Innovate Educate has a project using Work Keys to provide students feedback early on about their career readiness.
  • Transitional Support: Albuquerque is participating in the FAFSA Pilot Project to help more students get access to financial aid.
  • Project-based Learning: ACE Leadership High School works to equip young people who love to design and build things to become leaders in the construction profession. They serve young people who have limited means to have successful careers by caring for their intellectual, physical and emotional well-being as students.

There are many good things going in in New Mexico. Please let us know about them with contact information.

Respectful: Engage, Inquire, and Explore

Below are just a few types of questions we need to consider. What other issues do we need to take into account to help all of our students be college and career ready?

  • Tribal Sovereignty: During adolescence, many students need to participate in tribal responsibilities. How can we create more flexibility so that students can stay on track if they need to take a leave of absence?
  •  Children and Families: Many teens have substantial responsibilities in their households. What can we do to support the families when their teens start college?
  • Educators: What are the key issues that our educators face in preparing students for college and careers? Given the Common Core of standards, what help do teachers need to help students reach these new standards?

 World View:  Multilingual, Global Education

  • How many of our graduating children are fluent in two languages?
  • How many have taken AP in any other language? In Spanish?

Holistic: Design around Our Children and Their Lives

  • How many students have adult responsibilities while in high school including working more than 15 hours per week or taking care of family?
  • What do we know about the students who are not graduating from high school?

Urgency: Design for Systemic Improvements

  •  Which districts and high schools have higher graduation rates for low-income, Hispanic, Native American, and ELL students? What are they doing differently to produce higher graduation rates?
  • What types of policies could we implement to produce higher graduation rates, readiness, and successful transitions?