To successfully participate in today’s global economy, young people must graduate high school with the skills and competencies that allow them to pursue further study and meaningful work. Yet the data around successful transition from high school to higher education, and then to the completion of a degree, show some alarming trends. In 2007, 70.5% of students graduated from high school on time, and 62.5% went on to enroll immediately in postsecondary education.1,2 However, only 59.4% of students from that cohort who enrolled full-time in a 4-year institution graduated in 6 years; only 29.8% who enrolled full-time in a 2-year institution graduated in 3 years.3 These numbers are even more stark for underserved populations – low income, minority, and first generation students. The data clearly indicate that while we have made progress in increasing high school graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment, we are not doing as well at ensuring students are enrolling in college with the “right stuff” – the knowledge and skills necessary for postsecondary success that are the hallmarks of true college readiness.
State leaders – governors, legislators, and leadership from both K-12 and postsecondary education sectors – have recognized this issue and, particularly in the last decade, have taken steps in policy and practice to address the problem. In the late 2000s, state superintendents and governors worked together through their respective national associations – the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) – to develop the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a set of K-12 standards that would lead students to college readiness by high school graduation.4 The 2014 edition of the Achieve publication, Closing the Expectations Gap, indicates that all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have now adopted college and career ready standards (42 states and DC have adopted the CCSS).5 Most states have also taken other steps to increase college readiness, including implementing more rigorous courses in high school, college ready assessments in 11th grade, opportunities for acceleration within high school, and dual enrollment opportunities in local colleges. While progress has been variable, some states have been able to demonstrate early successes and build on early initiatives, even as they contend with various local and national challenges. Read full report here.