College & Career Readiness - Challenge Map
Challenge Map

Student Learning

College & Career Readiness

The Challenge

College and career readiness is a common priority area for districts, and is a particular focus for leaders at the high school level. Districts are striving to set students up for a successful and productive life of learning regardless of whether they choose college or not. For college going students, districts want to prepare them to not only enroll, but thrive in and complete college. While many districts offer career pathways and internship programs, they seek to ensure that these learning opportunities contribute to the development of skills needed for success in college and the changing workforce. To that end, districts are challenged to measure the success of these existing offerings and make improvements to increase students’ college and career readiness. Further, teachers need tools and strategies to embed career readiness into their curriculum to offer authentic ways for students to learn about and experience occupations alongside rigorous academic content.

In the Words of District Leaders

How do you marry college and career with curriculum? ... In name and in structure, I think we have a lot of the good pieces in place...but they still are operationalized like a career and technical education program within a strand, versus being fully integrated into the curriculum options.

“When we talk with our business partners, they are absolutely looking for what our graduate profile defines. They’re looking for those kind of workers. And part of what we’re saying to them is that we can’t create …those skills and dispositions if kids aren’t given the opportunity to experience workplace learning.”

“I want to dive into this more quantitative data… around post-secondary completion. Not how many kids are going to college, but how many are completing. Because probably 80 or 90 percent go, and it’s not that many who are finishing. So who’s finishing, and what’s the impact of our personalized learning environments on them finishing?”

Ideas from the Field

  • One interesting initiative is “sheltered internships”, in which students are in school but also placed in internships that can span multiple years of high school. Another variation of this is a program where students spend half the day in the high school, and the second half of the day working in a local business/organization for the entire school year.
  • Preparing students for college and career also means exposing them to real-world opportunities. Partnerships with local business groups or other state/local organizations allow students to visit, explore, or engage in longer-term apprentice-type programs. Opportunities span a wide spectrum, from students engaged in research with post-doctoral students to students gaining EMT certification to students visiting robotics, optics, fisheries or other local economic drivers.


Check out the following research-based resources for more information about supporting College & Career Readiness:

Ready for Work? – From American Institutes for Research, this whitepaper describes how afterschool programs can support employability through social and emotional learning.

Employability Skills Framework – From Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, the Employability Skills Framework, and related tools, media and resources, were developed to leverage and connect the efforts of policy makers, educators, and employers working to define, measure, and build skills for career success.

P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning – From Partnership for 21st Century Learning, this framework was developed with input from educators, education experts, and business leaders to define and illustrate the skills, knowledge, expertise, and support systems that students need to succeed in work, life, and citizenship.

Preventing Dropout in Secondary Schools – The goal of this IES practice guide is to offer educators specific, evidence-based recommendations that address the challenges of preventing dropout in secondary schools.

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