As high school seniors prepare to graduate this spring, many will likely face messages from their friends, family, school, and community about the importance of being college and career ready. Traditional preparation for post-secondary life might look like taking a rigorous set of courses, participating in a broad range of activities, and successfully navigating years of assessments. While this approach has well-served many over the years, we must also realize that such a narrow view of preparedness is not sufficient for a large portion of our population.
Consider the following:
- Only 54% of those who enter a U.S. college graduate within six years
- Only 37% of African Americans graduate within 6 years
- Only 42% of Hispanic students graduate within 6 years
- Nearly 70% of college students graduate with an average of $28,900 in student loan debt
- An average worker will hold nearly 11 jobs in his or her lifetime
With daunting statistics like these, the evidence is clear that we must consider a more holistic approach to college and career readiness to ensure our students are prepared to face the challenges and choices that life will present after they graduate high school.
In Habits of Mind Across the Curriculum: Practical and Creative Strategies for Teachers, Arthur Costa explores intelligent behaviors (such as persistence, flexibility, risk-taking, and innovation) that lead to success in school and the larger world, and offers strategies for incorporating these behaviors in the classroom. Drawing on Costa’s insights, I believe that being prepared for college and career is to be sure that the choices we make are the result of not only content and skill, but also of the essential thinking and living habits.
When asked about the meaning of the Boy Scout’s motto, “Be Prepared,” and for what should we be prepared, Boy Scouts Founder Baden-Powell answered “Why, for any old thing." The same rings true when I reflect on the meaning of college and career readiness for today’s students. In addition to rigorous course preparation, we must consider whether our students are equipped with skills that can prepare them for the tests of life.