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

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.

Rigorous Standards, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments

When California adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, it signaled a tectonic shift in the education landscape. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), adopted in 2013, are a far cry from the mile-wide, inch-deep standards of yesterday. These new standards set college and career readiness as the goal for all students, and they hold the promise of bringing rigor and relevance into the classroom. To realize this promise, our state must support educators, students, and parents in every district and community as they begin implementation. Without a focus on equity during this transition period, implementation of the standards may widen existing gaps in academic access and opportunity rather than close them.

To equitably implement the new standards, we must provide high-quality professional learning opportunities for all staff, provide rigorous instructional materials to classrooms, secure technology for new assessments and 21st century instruction, educate families and other stakeholders about the benefits of the new standards, and evaluate and monitor the implementation process. Taken together, these components will ensure all students in our state get access to the rigorous instruction and assessments that will prepare them for both college and career success.

In order to ensure equitable access to rigorous standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessments, we recommend that state leaders:

  1. Ensure equitable and effective implementation of the new standards, including the Common Core English-language arts (ELA) and math standards, NGSS, and English-language development (ELD) standards.
  2. Expand access to high-quality instructional materials.
  3. Invest in instructional models that promote deeper, interdisciplinary learning with the explicit goal of college and career success.
  4. Support a transparent, swift, and equitable transition to new assessments.


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.


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.


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.

Publications on College & Career

Kea'au High School Educational Opportunity Audit Findings

Dr. Tami Pearson & Phyllis Hart

Publication date: 
May 19 2009 (All day)

Statement by The Education Trust—West on High School Drop-out and Graduation Rates Released Today by The California Department of Education

OAKLAND, CA (May 12, 2009) Today, the California Department of Education (CDE) released information on high school graduation and drop-out rates. The CDE reported a four-year graduation rate of 68 percent for the class of 2008. Continuing its use of the Statewide Student Identifier (SSID) system introduced last year, the state was able to reveal a more accurate accounting of the number of students who dropped out of California’s public schools. Of the students who started as freshman in 2004, 20 percent dropped-out of high school.

Federal and State Accountability and the Data that Defines It

Dr. Tami Pearson & Molly Mauer
Claremont Graduate School
Claremont, CA

Publication date: 
March 28 2009 (All day)

The Education Trust—West Educational Opportunity Audit Report of Findings

Dr. Tami Pearson, Phyllis Hart & Sheilagh Polk
Oakland Unified School District
Oakland, CA

Publication date: 
March 25 2009 (All day)

Improving College Access and Success: Lessons Learned

Linda Murray
Foundation for a College Education
Palo Alto, CA

Publication date: 
March 12 2009 (All day)

Educational Opportunity Audit Report Findings: Montebello Unified School District

Dr. Tami Pearson, Phyllis Hart & Sheilagh Polk
Montebello, CA

Publication date: 
March 5 2009 (All day)

Improving Achievement , Closing Gaps, and Preventing Dropouts: Where are we? What do we need to do?

Kilian Betlach
Orange County Dropout Prevention Summitt
Anaheim, CA

Publication date: 
February 19 2009 (All day)

College And Career Ready for All: Building a Movement in Montebello

Dr. Tami Pearson, Sheilagh Polk, Phyllis Hart, Gabriel Craft, Elizabeth Mejia
Padres Unidos Parent Meeting
Montebello, CA 

Publication date: 
February 18 2009 (All day)

Creating a College Going Culture to Promote Achievement

Phyllis Hart
College Board
Sacramento, CA

Publication date: 
February 15 2009 (All day)

Konawaena High School Opportunity Audit

Dr. Tami Pearson & Gabriel Craft
Kona HI

Publication date: 
January 22 2009 (All day)