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

Student Achievement in California: Ed Trust—West Statement on 2010 STAR Data

OAKLAND, CA (August 16, 2010) – Results from the 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) released today by the California Department of Education (CDE) show marginal statewide improvement across most grade levels and content areas.  Since last year, the percentage of students at or above the proficient level increased by two points in English-language arts (ELA) and two points in mathematics.  While there have been measured gains over the last eight years, we still have much work to do.

Future of California’s Student Data System in Question after State Fails to Win Key Grant

(Oakland, CA) – Last Friday, California learned that it lost yet another critical opportunity for federal funds to support education reform— this time $20 million for data systems.  According to the California Department of Education, securing a grant from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) would have supported the state’s effort to further develop and implement a longitudinal system linking data across time and databases, from early childhood into career, including matching teachers to students while protecting student privacy and confidentiality.

San Jose Unified School District A Case Study: Preparing Students for College and Career

School districts across the country increasingly are shattering the myth that some students can’t learn as much as others. Take the San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD). Here, educators are proving that students from all backgrounds can access rigorous curricula. For more than a decade, the district has embraced college readiness as its mission.

Publication date: 
January 15 2010

A Guide for Hispanic Parents: How to Help Your Child Prepare for College and Career*

Why your child needs to prepare for college and a career, how to tell if your child’s school has college-ready academic standards, the special hurdles facing Hispanic students, and how parents can be effective advocates for their children.

Publication date: 
January 7 2010

SMALL GAINS, HUGE GAPS: The Education Trust—West's Statement on the Release of the 2009 California High School Exit Exam Results

OAKLAND, CA (September 2, 2009) – Results from the 2009 California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) released today by the California Department of Education (CDE) show marginal statewide improvement across both English and Math and for all ethnic groups throughout the state.

Achievement in California 2009: Ed Trust—West Statement on 2009 STAR Data

OAKLAND, CA (August 18, 2009) – Results from the 2009 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) released today by the California Department of Education (CDE) show marginal statewide improvement across most grade levels and content areas. More students are demonstrating mastery of state standards than at any point since standards and assessments became fully aligned in 2003.

San Marcos High School Educational Opportunity Audit

Dr. Linda Murray, Dr. Tami Pearson & Phyllis Hart
San Marcos Unified School District
San Marcos, CA
June 29, 2009

Publication date: 
June 29 2009 (All day)

Statement by The Education Trust—West on The Budget Conference Committee Vote to Eliminate the California High School Exit Exam

OAKLAND, CA (June 17, 2009) - “Yesterday’s vote by the state’s Budget Conference Committee to eliminate the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) as a graduation requirement represents a huge step backward for California’s schools and students. Attempting to dig our way out of the current fiscal crisis by pillaging our education system ensures that we will still be digging our way out of this same hole—or rather our children will—for many years to come.