Traditionally, college and career readiness (CCR) in schools has been centered around three areas: academic skills, career knowledge and college knowledge. But research shows that this isn’t enough.
Students also need to be equipped with social emotional skills, transition skills and interpersonal skills. While research shows that these areas are critical to student success, few strategic plans currently incorporate them. When students have the skills to overcome obstacles and learn how to function as part of a team enables them to engage in their school, community and eventually the workplace. Finally, understanding how to make transitions equips them to be successful in an economy with job changes happening much more frequently than in the past.
- Make the SEL connection: Deliberately make social and emotional learning part of CCLR programming. Connect qualities like grit, perseverance, and growth mindsets to career- and life-readiness skills. Teachers, counselors, administrators, and even local workforce members should share how they overcame obstacles to thrive in their current career. When conducting strengths and other assessments, ask students how they can use their strengths to shape their future.
- Collaborate with local workforce: Local businesses are an asset, no matter the size or setting. Invite local businesses to join classrooms to discuss the value of teamwork, to collaborate on apprenticeships, job shadowing, and volunteer opportunities, and to provide career-knowledge insights.
- Focus on transitions early: Capture the hope and engagement level of elementary and middle school students by helping them manage transitions successfully. By teaching students how to self-advocate, manage change, and adapt to new surroundings, they will be even better prepared to manage transitions after high school and into adulthood.
- Think outside the box (or counseling lesson): College, career and life readiness is not a segmented set of lessons. The theme of CCLR should carry through into each classroom, advisory period, and after school activity. Resilience, communication skills, teamwork, and growth mindsets are just an example of competency-related objectives that can be integrated into each strand of the school day. Get everyone involved in the CCLR way of life, and task all adults in the school or district to instill these characteristics into their daily interactions with students.
- Make data a consistent focus: Constant improvement can’t be measured without data analysis. Task completion is just the beginning of the data that should be collected to show the outcomes of college, career and life readiness initiatives in schools and districts. Take a deep dive into the data that is driving outcomes such as course rigor, graduation and college enrollment rates, and other indicators important to your school or district. Don’t wait until the end of the year to realize a change in course is necessary: Consistently review data at certain points throughout the year - weekly, monthly, or quarterly - and share metrics often with all stakeholders involved in CCLR implementation.
Adopting these strategies and expanding the CCR definition to include life readiness has driven improvements to key student success metrics in schools across the country.
Several districts are already making significant strides by expanding college and career readiness. Everett Public Schools, located just north of Seattle, Washington, has adopted a whole student approach, a change that delivered a district-wide increase for on-time high school graduation to 95 percent, an increase of 64 percent.
“We had many students coming to our district with a story of what was going on in their lives that was preventing them from graduating and achieving their high school and postsecondary goals. When a foundation for social and emotional skills is established early on, students transform into effective adults,” said Becky Ballbach, Director of Student Support Services at Everett Public Schools.
Chicago Public Schools has seen similar results after implementing summer transition programs, requiring students to develop postsecondary plans, and providing specialized coaching services. In just one year, the district increased college enrollment rates from 59 percent to 64 percent. “We’ve been able to better support students’ early college and career planning by deepening exploration and providing resources that ultimately help students build an initial path into a concrete plan,” said Patrick Milton, Executive Director, Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising at Chicago Public Schools.
By focusing on holistic student success, schools and districts can prepare students to succeed in college, career and life. To learn more about how to expand the definition of readiness, and to see the positive impact this can have, download the full white paper.