College & Career
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.
Without a well-designed implementation plan, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards, and English Language Development Standards are unlikely to lead to improvements in classroom instruction and educational outcomes. To ensure all students have access to and learn content aligned to these new standards, 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:
- Review and adopt materials aligned to the new standards with timelines to support implementation; make available to California educators online the best materials created by other states.
- Provide guidance and support to districts as they transition to the new standards and redefine instructional priorities.
- 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.
- Empower teachers and educators to use the assessments to track and improve student learning as new assessment data becomes available.
A-G for All
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.
The CA Linked Learning Initiative
Given the global economic challenges our state and nation are facing, it is abundantly clear that we must approach college and career readiness from a new direction. Fortunately, is a fresh groundswell of commitment to high school reform in California and across the country, with educators and policymakers committed to expanding college and career readiness. “Linked Learning” is one such effort. When implemented in fidelity with its vision, it promises to increase graduation rates and prepare students for both college and career options by offering an engaging, relevant, and rigorous course of study. The Linked Learning reform strategy is in the early stages of development and implementation in California districts. Therefore, the effectiveness, scalability, and potential of this approach to result in greater equity, improved student academic achievement, and college and career access and success has yet to be fully determined.
Data Collection and Use
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.
The Education Trust—West is exploring the digital learning landscape to understand the promise and pitfalls of technological innovation in education. Our goal is to identify and advocate for the policies, solutions and strategies that will allow low-income students and students of color to fully realize the potential of the digital world and this new and more personalized approach to learning. Our ultimate goal is to improve student outcomes and to erase the achievement gap. We are also concerned that low-income students and students of color lack equitable access to the benefits of technological innovation in education, and seek to ensure educators and policymakers focus on digital equity, access and success to address this inequity.
There are several policy and implementation issues we are exploring:
- Access to infrastructure – such as bandwidth,hardware and quality tools and content;
- Development of human capital - professional development and support for the educators and administrators on the effective use of digital tools;
- Leadership and redesign: School and district leaders will need to restructure our 19th century educational model to take advantage of new opportunities to accelerate learning provided by digital tools;
- State policy and funding – removal of barriers such as seat time and other 19th century requirements and the effective use of funding to close digital divides.