college and career readiness

6 steps to college and career readiness

Focusing on collaboration can leads to policy change that supports college and career readiness

A collaborative leadership model is critical when it comes to bolstering school policy and helping students meet college and career readiness goals, according to a new report from the Learning First Alliance.

The report, A New Philosophy on Education Decision-Making, urges governors to consider changes in practitioner-driven policies and practices that will empower local school leaders and stakeholders to work together toward school improvement.

In light of a frequently changing set of policies and initiatives that can follow each election, the report discusses how educational professionals too often are denied the opportunity to fully develop and implement promising programs and major initiatives, such as college and career ready academic standards.

“Working collaboratively requires a change in how education policy is developed and how the politics that drive it are managed, which can result in more effective practice,” according to the report.

The report “can provide the basis for an enhanced, innovative approach to decision-making that transforms how federal and state policy can link to local leadership at all levels,” said Richard Long, executive director of Learning First Alliance. “By encouraging sustained engagement from all stakeholders, those with the expertise needed to transform teaching and learning can have the opportunity to take the promise of policy and deliver results.”

Next page: Six recommendations for college and career readiness

Six recommendations for college and career readiness:

1. Continue moving forward with college- and career-ready standards implementation. Rather than changing standards out of frustration that there have not been more immediate results or out of political concerns, make such decisions based on the needs of students. Continue efforts to ensure that assessments, curriculum, professional learning and the other materials needed to implement high standards are aligned to them. Provide time and resources to support the continuing instructional changes required each year as students bring additional background in the standards.

2. Emphasize each individual child in instructional decisions. Adapt the new college- and career-ready standards and locally-implemented curricula to meet the distinct needs of all learners.

3. Expand efforts to communicate with the public and governmental leaders about how college- and career-ready standards are improving the number and quality of graduates and provide examples of how students at all levels are benefiting from higher standards. Communications plans must be forward-looking and student-centered, and they should engage the media. They should emphasize the standards alone, making clear what such standards are and are not, distancing them from assessments, curriculum, instruction and accountability. They must also make clear why these changes are important. Parents and families in particular should be targeted to ensure they understand the benefit the standards offer to each student and feel ownership over the educational process.

4. Continue expanding the linkages between teacher education and PK-12 programs that allow for intensive collaboration between the two. Ensure preparation programs – including the English, math and science department faculty – are aware of their state’s K-12 education standards and that their candidates know how to teach to them. Provide new funding to create the curriculum alignments and support needed for better in-service student-teacher practicum, mentoring, and residency programs (including funds for the mentoring teacher). Work to distribute top candidates equitably to ensure that high-poverty schools have access to fully qualified new teachers.

5. Expand professional development programs. Teachers and other school leaders need more time and support to sharpen their instructional skills, deconstruct the standards, learn new technologies, and integrate those technologies into regular use. Learning opportunities should be ongoing, differentiated and collaborative. These opportunities must be distributed equitably, so that educators at historically under-resourced schools have the same opportunities as their peers working at more advantaged schools to develop the skills they need to help students succeed under more rigorous standards.

6. Redesign assessment and accountability programs to make them useful for students and educators and to ensure they accurately reflect the progress that students, schools and districts are making. The importance of formative assessments should be acknowledged and respected. Accountability programs must include multiple measures and only offer a small role for standardized tests. Data must be available quickly so changes in instructional programs can be made to help each student and so families can support their children at home. In addition, the same tool should be used for assessment and instruction (if a pencil is the tool for instruction, it should be the tool for assessment). Assessment is not the time to introduce new techniques.

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Laura Ascione
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