Why school districts need to start measuring college and career readiness now

Districts can do better to ensure their students are effectively prepared for college and careers by administering readiness feedback surveys as early as middle school. 
By: | May 23, 2022
By gaining an understanding of college and career readiness, including at the middle school level, districts can better ensure students have a well-rounded experience that prepares them for life. (Credit: AdobeStock)

Research shows that less than half of graduating seniors feel prepared for life after high school. This includes academically, such as writing a paper, as well as non-academically with life skills, such as time management. These feelings of unpreparedness are not uncommon and can have a large negative impact when these students go on to college or a full-time job.

Jennifer Coisson

Jennifer Coisson

Before joining K12 Insight as its head of research, I served as an academic coach and advisor at Florida Atlantic University. In that position, I was able to work with first- and second-year students who were on academic probation.

Oftentimes, it wasn’t necessarily the course content that they struggled with, but rather things like how to properly take notes; balance school, work, and a social life; or manage their new independence and unstructured schedules.

Looking back and taking what I do now into consideration, I wonder what their experiences would have been like had they had the opportunity to share their feelings on how prepared or unprepared they felt for life after graduation with their K-12 school district.

Many school districts will distribute some form of college and career readiness evaluation or survey to seniors before they graduate. However, districts could be even more proactive in ensuring their students are effectively prepared for 21st-century postsecondary education and careers by administering college and career readiness feedback surveys as early as middle school.

By gaining an understanding of college and career readiness, including at the middle school level, districts can better ensure students have a well-rounded experience that prepares them for life.

When done correctly, college and career readiness surveys offer impactful information about student investment, profiles of graduates, and the overall educational experience. These surveys can provide valuable feedback on how prepared students feel academically — such as writing papers, researching topics, or speaking a foreign language. Surveys can also offer up insights on non-academic preparedness — such as interview skills, proper virtual/Internet etiquette, and budgeting finances.

The data collected from such surveys can help districts develop the most effective curriculum and programs that support all students — not just the ones who are headed to college.

Surveying middle and high school students is a cost-effective, student-centered way to collect the data needed to make informed decisions that will help support a successful future for all students.

Dr. Jennifer Coisson is the Head of Research at K12 Insight. She has extensive experience in education research, including college and career readiness; diversity, equity, and inclusion; employee engagement; school quality; student engagement; strategic planning; and superintendent searches. She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University, a master’s degree in Counselor Education, and a bachelor’s degree in Communication, as well as a graduate certificate in Student Affairs and a certification in Appreciative Advising. 

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