“College & Career Readiness” is Meaningless

Alex Jones

To say that a school, a test or a curriculum will make students more “college & career ready” implies that we actually know what readiness means across all higher ed institutions and across all industries.

Furthermore, it implies that we know what “readiness” will mean for future institutions and industries — those that don’t yet exist.

Did you know, 10 years ago, that you could have a future career as a blogger on Medium?

Just because the people behind the ACT claim a 22 makes you ready for college, doesn’t mean you actually are. Many will agree that this isn’t the only indicator of a student’s readiness for college, but I would argue, it shouldn’t even be one of the indicators.

It is misleading to tell students ANY ACT or SAT score indicates their readiness for college, without first looking at other features of this students, which college we’re talking about and which major the student might be pursuing.

A student’s likelihood of getting at least a B in a college class depends on the level of rigor of that school, that class, as well as the student’s ability and focus.

In my work with students, the biggest correlating factor I’ve seen between a student’s readiness for high-level collegiate rigor is their individual pursuit of their passions. Students who create, build, invent and lead SOMETHING in high school are those who not only stand out in the college application process, but they are also those who are more sure of themselves and more confident about their abilities. These are the students who will thrive in college — regardless of where they are. They’ve got what it takes to step up to a more rigorous environment as well as challenge themselves personally in a less rigorous environment.

The new Coalition application platform will allow students to build a portfolio in an online “Locker” throughout high school, enabling them to showcase their finest work when they eventually do apply to colleges.

The thing is, these students who are doing their own, amazing work, often don’t have test scores or grades to match their true abilities. You see, these students live and work in pursuit of their own interests and passions — they often can’t see the point in exhausting themselves to accommodate someone else’s standards.

As far as career readiness goes, the best way to ensure someone’s long-term career readiness is to prepare them to pivot. Young people know they can acquire skills and “badges” along the way, mostly online now. Opportunities for skill acquisition will always be there. A general education that is challenging, critical, investigative and Socratic, will give students the strong platform on which to build more specific, finite skills along the way, as industries change and as technology evolves. If we can save our students from being victims of horizontal skills mismatch down the road, then I think we’ve done our job in making them “career ready”.

Next time you hear someone say their program makes kids “college and career ready”, think about which career and which college they’re actually preparing kids for and how limiting that preparation may actually be.

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