The definition of College and Career Readiness in New State needs to be expanded. First, the definition should embrace Citizenship Readiness in addition to College and Career. Second, the definition must also be broadened far beyond a score on a couple of Regents exams, (80% on a math Regents examination and 75% on an ELA Regents examination).
To be College, Career, and Citizenship ready, our graduates must also be proficient at the 4Cs: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creative Problem Solving. The 4Cs are the “standards” that businesses have repeatedly and consistently expressed to educators since the SCANS Report of 1992. Unfortunately, it is a little-known fact that these skills are actually codified in the New York State Learning Standards in CDOS 3a: Universal Skills. The fact that these standards are not well known is due to the fact that there is no accountability mechanism for them and that they are seldom discussed. Yet, it could be argued that these should receive the same attention as literacy and numeracy. The voice of career readiness in our country, the businesses, has made no secret about this.
Preparation for College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness has been crowded out by a narrow definition of readiness – the definition that is pinned solely to remediation needs in community colleges. Citizenship isn’t mentioned at all in the narrow definition, yet few would argue that one of the primary purposes of school is to prepare our students to improve our society. Using the narrow 80%/75% definition narrows and constrains what readiness means and sends the wrong message to the educational community and to the public at large. While literacy and numeracy are very important parts of readiness they are not the sole definition (nor can they be defined by an 80% and 75%).
In some places across New York State, educational communities are employing a wider, more authentic definition of College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness. Prior to Race To The Top and the Regents Reform Agenda, districts all over the state were realigning their systems in order to better prepare students for their future. The Regents Reform Agenda ended up diverting that attention. While the Regents Reform Agenda emphasizes some parts of Readiness, it ignores many of the aspects of Readiness that businesses tell us are the most important to them:
Proficiency in reading, writing, and arithmetic has traditionally been the entry-level threshold to the job market, but the new workplace requires more from its employees. Employees need to think critically, solve problems, innovate, collaborate, and communicate more effectively—and at every level within the organization (AMA 2010 Critical Skills Survey).
Work on 21st Century Skills and project-based learning have continued during the period of the Regents Reform Agenda in pockets across the state. In Central New York, we have developed a regional vision that looks beyond the Regents Reform Agenda. Our plans for several New Tech High Schools and Project Based Learning in all schools are founded on the expanded definition of Readiness. Central New York has a broader vision of Readiness for our students.
Check out the New Tech Network’s School Success Rubric. Just a quick sample of descriptors from the rubric is all it takes to understand how limited the 80%/75% definition is:
- Students demonstrate the ability to understand and utilize the knowledge and skills of a discipline to reason, problem-solve, and develop sound arguments or decisions.
- Students demonstrate mastery of other college and career readiness skills such as creativity, innovation, technology literacy, researching, social interaction, time management, etc.
- Students are very confident in many settings and demonstrate the attributes of highly effective people including resilience, patience, adaptability, and persistence.
- Students are often innovative and creative, deriving unique solutions to problems, and defend their ideas and conclusions with enthusiasm.
- Students expect to attend college; have thoroughly researched post-secondary options, financial aid, and career paths; and have applied to several organizations that meet their learning and career objectives.
These are just a sampling from the rubric – but you get the idea. Changing the definition and conversation about Readiness from test scores to what it really means to be ready might have an impact on the larger conversation (and drama) we hear when it comes to education these days. Using these definitions we change the story from test scores to students’ future, which is what the story should have been all along. In Central New York, we get it.