Measures that Matter: Making college and career readiness the mission for America's high schools

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Publication date: 
November 20 2008 (All day)

WASHINGTON (November 20, 2008) – America’s young people are being woefully underprepared for life after high school. While the importance of postsecondary education and training has never been greater, four of every 10 college students need to take remedial courses. Among African-American and Latino students, that number rises to six out of 10. And sadly, students who take remedial courses in college are much more likely to drop out. This preparation gap is taking a real toll on our high school graduates, and on our economy and society as a whole.

Obviously our schools need to change. To spur progress, state policy makers need a new approach to the system of standards, tests, and accountability in high school – one that makes college and career readiness the central driver and acknowledges where greater state leadership and resources are essential to success.

Measures that Matter is a joint, ongoing effort by Achieve and The Education Trust to address that challenge, providing strategic and technical guidance to states in creating a coherent set of policies designed to get all students college- and career-ready. Informed by a distinguished advisory group of state and national experts representing diverse perspectives, the two organizations conducted research and commissioned white papers on critical topics, emerging with guidance that state leaders can use to advance their efforts.

The Measures that Matter materials were used for the first time earlier this week by eight states attending the College & Career Ready Policy Institute. These participating states have committed to creating college- and career-ready assessment and accountability systems and are using the Measures that Matter tools to guide their planning and work.

“The time has come to rethink not only what we expect of students and but also what we ask of our high schools and the leaders who are responsible for them,” said Matt Gandal, Executive Vice President of Achieve. “College and career readiness must be the goal for all students and in order for this goal to become a reality, states will need to make changes in what they measure, how they measure it, and how they structure their accountability systems to encourage all schools to aim higher. If we tell students they are proficient that must mean they are prepared for the opportunities that await them in the real world.”

While states are at very different points in this work, most will not be starting from scratch. There has been rapid progress in some areas, especially raising high school standards and graduation requirements to align with the expectations of employers and higher education. Yet even the states that are the farthest along with this work are, at best, only halfway to the goal of a truly aligned system. Measures that Matter is designed to help all states, wherever they may be in this process, take the necessary steps to put the full set of policies in place. 

“There is a lot of work for states to align standards, assessments and accountability with the demands of life after high school," said Ross Wiener, Vice President of The Education Trust. “But these changes alone won't be enough to get everyone pulling in the same direction. The next generation of state policy needs to give teachers and students meaningful goals to aim for, and needs to provide more useful information and stronger curriculum and instructional support to help them succeed.”

The Measures that Matter materials are organized around what the two groups think of as “a new set of basics” for what states have to get right at the high school level: standards, course requirements, curriculum and teacher support materials, aligned assessments, and an information/accountability system that supports real-time action from critical players.