The Readiness Gap is a Growing Concern

teachers with studentsThe “readiness gap” between high school and college is a growing concern, especially for low-income students who are poorly prepared for life after high school.

The Ford Foundation’s MRDC says that over half of incoming community college students take one or more developmental reading, writing, and math courses.

Guidance professionals want to bridge the gap. But, without control over curriculum, Common Core, or standardized tests, how can they work toward the goal of college-readiness?

First, we must understand what makes a student college ready.

The case for the importance of a rigorous curriculum in preparing students for college is well defined. Students who participate in a rigorous curriculum in high school are “significantly more likely to succeed in college.”  In fact, the Department of Education concluded that a rigorous high school curriculum is the most important factor in the likelihood of a student’s success in college.

A rigorous curriculum isn’t just critical to student intellectual development, universities favor an intense course load when considering applicants.  Most NACAC institutions identify a rigorous curriculum as a more influential factor than standardized tests.  A curriculum’s intensity level isn’t the end of the story, either. Students must also demonstrate proficiency.

In 2014, a set of benchmarks for math and English skills called the Common Core Standards (CCSS) made waves in high schools across the country.  These tools for educational reform were Initially adopted by 46 states, but later repealed or defunded in eight states. The remaining states use Common Core Standards, which fundamentally change how student knowledge and success is defined.

The reach of CCSS extends far beyond primary and secondary schools.  Colleges and universities “as well as entire systems within states, have the option to incorporate… assessment scores into their campus placement policies.’’  Most Likely to SucceedStudent scores on the Common Core based assessments are an influential factor in a school’s judgement about whether “… students are ready to enroll in first-year credit-bearing coursework without retesting for placement in college Math or English.”

Essentially, we can glean a student’s level of college readiness from her performance on Common Core aligned assessments.

Universities use these assessments to decide if a student is ready or needs remedial coursework. They also use standardized test scores in placement and admission decisions.  After a rigorous curriculum, standardized test scores are reported as a “factor of considerable importance”.  Contentious as they are, standardized test scores are a favored indicator of college readiness.

The confluence of curriculum content, Common Core competencies and standardized tests gauges a student’s readiness for college.  Secondary institutions can thus use research based practices to help students achieve the scores and meet the standards that demonstrate college readiness.

Maia Learning helps guidance professionals and students on the path to college. Students can engage in career exploration and planning that engages them in planning their futures, and makes it more likely they can reach those futures. They can compare colleges, get recommendation letters, build portfolios and manage applications.

Counselors can keep student data in one convenient program, use assessments to determine how students learn best and what interests them, and help them manage the career and college planning process.

Guidance counselors armed with these resources are a student’s strongest ally in the fight to close the high school to college gap.