The case for authentic assessment of essential college and career skills to improve student outcomes in college and career.

Are your students ready for their next step?


The case for authentic assessment of essential college and career skills to improve student outcomes in college and career

After more than a year of virtual learning, many educators and parents are investigating approaches to accelerate learning to ensure students are ready for their next step.  Learning does not just mean facts and content but includes a broad range of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and effective written communication, as well as social and emotional well-being.  

While content knowledge is a requisite part of a student’s education, on its own it is insufficient if a student is to thrive academically and professionally. Students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication skills are essential for success in college and career. These are the skills in high demand by employers and higher education institutions.

Prior to the pandemic, CAE’s data show that 60 percent of students entering college are not proficient in these essential skills. Furthermore, 44 percent are still not proficient when they graduate. These are the students most at risk–and proficiency is likely even lower now, given the impact of the pandemic. CAE’s data also shows that students who are more proficient with these essential skills are more likely to have positive college and career outcomes.

Educators work hard getting students ready for their next step. Several states now require evidence of student progress toward that goal. However, institutions generally do not have a consistent, proven approach to assess how competent their students are in these essential skills. Most rely on subject area tests or college entrance exams to gain that insight. Such tests have come increasingly under fire over the past decade, with critics claiming they are overused, inequitably applied, and not aligned with optimal outcomes for training and education. The challenges of COVID-19 further highlighted existing perceptions of assessment deficiencies.

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