Member News 

Career Readiness Initiative

From Ashley Terwilliger, Director, Content & Member Services

The Network is undertaking a new initiative related to defining and supporting career readiness. To begin our investigation, we are seeking your advice and perspective. We encourage all Network members to take the career readiness survey described under the Notes and Notables tab of the newsletter.

Thank you for taking the time to provide your input!


Feature Article

Career-Ready Schools: What Are They Doing Differently?*

By Bill Daggett

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Assessments are based upon what the nation’s most rapidly improving schools are already doing: focusing on preparing students for college and careers — not one or the other. We know what college ready means: prepared for a two‐ or four‐year degree program without the need for remediation. But what does career ready mean, and how do we accomplish it? The answers lie in the research that contributed to the direction of the new standards and assessments. That research was conducted jointly by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the International Center for Leadership in Education, and the Successful Practices Network.

Defining the Problem

There is encouraging news in American education: most schools are improving; graduation rates are up; academic standards are being raised; student achievement levels are rising; instructional effectiveness is being evaluated and is improving. Although the pace has been slow, K‐12 education is moving in the right direction.

The problem is that the world is changing at a much faster rate. The gap is growing between how well America is preparing its students for adulthood, citizenship, and meaningful careers and what is required in our increasingly complex, globalized, digital, and competitive workplace.

America itself is becoming more diverse. There are widening achievement gap between the haves and the have‐nots, between suburban and urban/rural, and between cultural and linguistic groups of citizens.

Efforts to close this gap have focused on making sure that students are “college ready.” But that goal is too narrow. They must also be “career ready.” The workplace has changed much more than college in recent decades. The stark reality of the 21st century, which most people have not fully comprehended, is that the academic skills needed in the workplace are often higher than and different from those needed in college. That is why we must strive to make our K-12 students both college ready and career ready — not either/or.

What Is the Solution?

The CCSS mark a new direction for K‐12 education. Embedded in them is a different approach to academics, one that places greater emphasis on communication skills, informational reading and writing, and interpreting dense text, as well as on math skills related to modeling and reasoning — all more applied and workplace‐related that previous standards. Essentially, the CCSS reflect the findings of our Gates-funded study of promising-to-proven high schools and of our work with the nation’s most rapidly improving schools: students need an education that will make them both college ready and career ready. And that career readiness does, in fact, enhance college readiness by changing the nature of learning and teaching.

Unfortunately, states and districts have been less attentive to the career readiness aspect of the CCSS and continue to emphasize college readiness, meaning higher level and more rigorous, but not necessarily different or more relevant academic standards. My fear is that the intent of the CCSS will be lost in an entrenched system that will not recognize that the “students think AND work” model of career readiness is no longer just an option for some students, but an imperative for all.

Here are some of the situations that need to be addressed:

  1. The vision of curriculum and learning needs to shift from an either/or mindset to both college and career readiness.
  2. Rules and regulations governing how students can learn and be taught are barriers that inhibit a vision of career readiness and serve special interests, not students.
  3. Most students live in a highly interconnected, digital world — except at school. The organizational culture is a barrier to a career-ready vision of learning.

The goals of college readiness and career readiness for all students can be achieved. A student who is career ready is able to think independently; to learn independently; to solve complex problems; to communicate, collaborate, and initiate; and to accept diversity. That student has the ingredients for success in learning, in work, and in life.

Next Steps

If you embrace the concept of career readiness, seek to eliminate the academics-CTE “either‐or” mindset, and want to move your organization in that direction, consider these suggestions.

  1. Take the Barriers Survey with your team. You will gain insights into entrenched perceptions about impediments to making students career ready. Contact SPN at (518) 723-2063 or fill out and return the order form.
  2. Bring a team to the 2013 Model Schools Conference to learn how schools that have overcome common barriers did so.
  3. Let us help you turn your Barriers Survey results into collaborative discussion and action planning with your leadership team. In addition, if you would like a member of my staff who has worked with the promising‐to‐proven and rapidly improving model schools, as well as early implementers of the CCSS, to share our findings/recommendations with you during a professional development activity, please contact Karen Wilkins at or 518‐723‐2057.

Dr. Willard R. (Bill) Daggett is Founder and Chairman, International Center for Leadership in Education.

*To read a full discussion on the issues and challenges related to career readiness, please download the full white paper here.