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:
1. ESTABLISH COLLEGE-PREPARATORY GRADUATION STANDARDS.
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.
2. ENSURE HIGH-QUALITY IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS AND ASSESSMENTS.
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.
3. OFFER CAREER-READY OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE FULLY INTEGRATED WITH A COLLEGE-READY COURSE OF STUDY.
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.
4. COLLECT AND USE DATA TO INFORM DECISION-MAKING.
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