The Education Trust-West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college.

Offering Rigorous Standards, Curriculum and Assessments

Offering Rigorous Standards, Curriculum and Assessments

To fill workplace needs over the next two decades, California will need 1 million more college graduates than our education system is on track to produce. Sadly, our high school to college pipeline is broken, with too few students completing high school, enrolling in postsecondary institutions, and completing degrees. The leaks in this pipeline disproportionately hurt low-income students and students of color.

California’s high schools must dramatically increase not only the number of students who are earning diplomas, but also the number of students who graduate with meaningful preparation. This means ensuring that students have the skills, knowledge, and coursework necessary for college and career. And it means eliminating the systematic tracking that exacerbates differences among student subgroups: Low-income students and students of color receive less demanding coursework, limiting the scope of both their education and their future college and career options.

All California students should be well prepared for both college and the workforce.

California policymakers should take the following steps:


California must strengthen its graduation requirements and align them with college-ready expectations. All students ought to graduate with the courses needed to enter California’s public universities. In 20 states across the country and the District of Columbia, students are already required to complete a college-preparatory curriculum to earn a diploma, in recognition that a rigorous course of study is necessary for both college and career. Until California’s default graduation requirements are strong enough to make a student eligible for the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) systems, we must continue to expand access to the “A-G” course sequence required by our state’s public university systems.


Without a well-designed implementation plan, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are unlikely to lead to improvements in classroom instruction and educational outcomes. To ensure all students have access to and learn content aligned to the CCSS, the state must accelerate and expand its efforts to provide tools, resources, and professional development for educators. To this end, the state should take the following steps:

a. Review and adopt materials aligned to the CCSS with timelines to support implementation; make available to California educators online the best materials created by other states.

b. Provide guidance and support to districts as they transition to the new standards and redefine instructional priorities.

c. Ensure that all districts, especially those with the highest poverty, have the technology and know-how needed to administer new online “adaptive” assessments, which adjust up or down in difficulty in response to student answers.

d. Empower teachers and educators to use the assessments to track and improve student learning once new assessment data is available.


The state must ensure that high school programs and curriculum focused on career preparation also equip students for college success. Linked Learning illustrates one approach that, when implemented well, joins strong academics, demanding technical education, work-based learning, and student supports. In expanding and implementing college and career-preparation programs, the state must ensure that districts and schools have incentives to offer equitable access to this coursework and are held accountable for equitable outcomes, including high school graduation and A-G rates.


California must continue to fund, develop, and implement the state’s student data system (CALPADS) so that all stakeholders have the data they need to evaluate and support student learning and system improvement. A system that tracks individual student progress from early childhood through the K–12 system, into postsecondary education, and then into the workforce, will allow the state to determine which programs yield the most results. Further, such a system will help educators work with parents to support each student’s progress.


Publications on College and Career Readiness

Repairing the Pipeline: A Look at the Gaps in California's High School to College Transition

California will need an additional one million college graduates by 2025. To meet this challenge, California’s college and career pipeline must serve as a true pathway to post-secondary success for all California’s students. New data from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) highlight major gaps in college opportunity for the low-income students and students of color who are the majority of California’s student population. Fortunately, these data also reveal high schools throughout California that are making progress in closing these opportunity gaps. To read more, click here.  

Publication date: 
June 19 2012

New CALPADS Data Reveal Accurate California Graduation and Dropout Rates for All Students; Shows Unacceptable Results for Students of Color and English Learners

OAKLAND, CA (August 11, 2011) -- Today’s release by the California Department of Education (CDE) of the state’s graduation and dropout rates has good news and bad news. The bad news is clear: The data show that California students, particularly low-income students, students of color, and other high-need populations, graduate from high school at alarmingly low rates. The good news is that for the first time, the graduation and dropout rates are accurate, transparent, and are no longer estimates, thanks to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS.

Diploma Matters: A Field Guide for College and Career Readiness

Diploma Matters:  A Field Guide for College and Career Readiness (Jossey-Bass) is written for practitioners who believe fully that the K-12 experience should prepare all students equally well for the full array of opportunities that await them after high school.  Whatever they choose, high school graduates should be equipped with the knowledge and skills that will make them successful in both college and careers. 

This field guide is intended to help state leaders, district superintendents, principals, and other site and district leaders gain a deep understanding of what it takes to ensure that students from all backgrounds have access to a rigorous course of study that leads to college and career readiness. It can also be a useful resource in the higher education arena as part of teacher preparation and administrator leadership programs. Readers will find a "toolkit" developed by The Education Trust-West.  The tools in the kit help school leaders and teachers examine the current high school experience (Educational Opportunity Audit), and then develop a detailed action plan (Blueprint) to transform curriculum so that their students are ready for college and work. 

Publication date: 
August 2 2011

Unlocking Doors and Expanding Opportunities

To meet California’s demand for a more educated workforce, high schools must dramatically increase the number of students who earn diplomas and graduate with meaningful preparation. Yet disturbingly, few students graduate with the college-ready coursework needed to access our state’s public university system. This is especially true for low-income students and students of color, who are also disproportionately tracked into less rigorous “career education” courses.

Publication date: 
July 25 2011

Ed Trust—West Applauds Prioritization of K-12 Funding in Governor Brown’s May Budget Revision; Deeply Concerned About Cuts to State Education Data Systems

(OAKLAND, CA) The Education Trust—West issued the following statement regarding the release of Governor Brown’s May Revision:

The Education Trust—West is pleased that Governor Brown has chosen to limit further cuts to education in his revised budget.  However, we remain concerned about the continuing budget shortfall and hope that a compromise can soon be forged that results in the long-term budget solution vital to our students and schools.

Ed Trust—West Urges New State Leaders to Prioritize Ending the Dropout Crisis; Highlights Urgent Need for Accurate Statewide Data on Full Extent of Crisis

(OAKLAND, CA)  The Education Trust—West issued the following statement regarding the latest data on dropout and graduation rates:

The latest education data collected for the first time through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) and released yesterday by the California Department of Education (CDE) reveals that the dropout rate remains at crisis levels for the state’s Latino and African-American students.

ETW Statement on Ed Trust’s For-Profit Colleges Report; Too Many of California’s Low-Income & Students of Color Left with High Debt, No Diploma

(OAKLAND, CA)  The Education Trust—West issued the following statement today regarding the release of a new report on for-profit colleges and universities by its national office, The Education Trust:

In California, for-profit institutions are growing at a rapid rate in a time when state support for higher education is declining.  In opening their doors to—and often directly targeting—disadvantaged students, these schools offer the promise of college and career opportunities. But how effectively are they fulfilling students’ dreams of a great career, and at what cost?

The Path to College: Building Equity and Rigor for All

Ensuring educational equity and creating rigorous coursework for all students daunts most districts. Oakland Unified School District recently reset the bar for graduation to match college entrance requirements in California. Learn how OUSD is partnering with The Education Trust to assess institutional barriers impeding student academic achievement. School counselor-led task forces identified and are changing district policies and practices that hinder academic achievement.

November 4 2010

EQUITY ALERT: As White House Convenes Summit on Community Colleges, New Equity Alert Reveals Too Few California Students Transfer to Four-Year Institutions

(OAKLAND, CA)  As the White House convenes the first-ever Summit on Community Colleges today, a new Equity Alert by The Education Trust—West reveals that an inexcusably low number of California community college students actually transfer to a four-year institution in order to earn a bachelor’s degree.  The Equity Alert, titled California Community Colleges: Lost in the Path to a Bachelor’s Degree, focuses on a cohort of those students who showed intent to transfer to a four-year college. According to the findings, after two years, only 6 percent of students system-wide who have shown an intent to transfer to a four-year institution were actually able to do so.  In particular, the rates of transfer for African-American and Latino students are unconscionably low. Only 4 percent of African-American students and 3 percent of Latino students who show intent to transfer actually transfer after two years.