College & Career Readiness - Challenge Map

College & Career Readiness

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.

Challenge Stats


Respondents reported this challenge is urgent


Middle school staff responded their schools have made progress on this challenge


High school staff responded their schools have made progress on this challenge

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.

In the Words of District Staff

Another recession is upon us, and this looks far worse than the 2008 financial crash. Students feel uncertain about their future and [preparing for the future in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic] adds to their stress.
College advisor
Spring 2020

“When a kid walks across the stage, how do we know they're going to be successful? So what's the idea of a successful graduate? Which is much more than state testing, much more than did you master these standards? So I think that's a challenge that we face is how to answer that question.”

“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?”


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 policymakers, 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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