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College and Career Readiness
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Many policymakers and educators are focused on ensuring that students are ready for college and careers when they graduate from high school. RELs work in partnership with states and districts to 1) conduct original high quality research, 2) provide training, coaching, and technical support, and 3) disseminate high quality research findings on the topic of college and career readiness. A selected list of resources developed by the REL Program appears below.


Works in Progress

  • Using High School Data to Predict Early College Success in Guam (REL Pacific). Many Guam public high school graduates who enroll as first-time freshmen at the University of Guam and Guam Community College are placed into non-credit developmental courses instead of credit-bearing courses. Because early college success has important implications for students and educational institutions, stakeholders in Guam have expressed a need to learn more about early college success and its predictors in this population. This study will use existing data to examine early college success, as well as demographic and academic preparation characteristics, of recent graduates from Guam public high schools who enrolled at the University of Guam or Guam Community College from 2012 through 2015.
  • Using High School Data to Predict Early College Success in Palau (REL Pacific). As part of its Education Master Plan 2026, the Palau Ministry of Education (MOE) and Palau Community College (PCC)—the island's lone public postsecondary education institution—are working to align their education systems to better prepare Palau students for the rigors of college-level coursework. This study will identify (a) the specific student characteristics and aspects of students' high school preparation that predict early success in college and college completion, and (b) the percentage of Palau High School students who participated in the types academic preparation found to predict college success.
  • Using College Data to Better Understand Teachers' Performance on the National Standardized Test for Teachers (NSTT) in the Federated States of Micronesia (REL Pacific). One pressing challenge in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a shortage of qualified teachers. Using existing data, this study will examine variability in the demographic characteristics and the college academic preparation variables of teacher candidates who graduated from the College of Micronesia-FSM from 2012 through 2016 and who passed or failed the National Standardized Test for Teachers (NSTT). In addition, this study will examine what demographic and college academic preparation factors predict NSTT performance in this context.
  • Factors Predicting College Readiness and Early College Success: An Exploratory Study of High School Students' Demographic and Academic Characteristics In the Republic of Marshall Islands (REL Pacific). More than 75% of recent incoming students at College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) are initially placed in non-credit developmental courses rather than credit-bearing courses. Using existing data, this study will examine various demographic and academic preparation characteristics of three cohorts of recent graduates from the RMI public school system who enrolled in CMI from 2013 through 2015. The study will also examine which demographic and academic preparation characteristics predict college readiness and early college success among these students.
  • How does middle school Algebra I relate to teacher qualifications? (REL Central). This study is designed to address a high-leverage issue of improving mathematics outcomes in the middle grades. In particular, this study seeks to better understand which teacher qualifications (e.g., certification type, college course work, and mathematical knowledge), if any, are associated with student achievement in Algebra I at the middle school level.
  • Alignment of West Virginia's Career and Technical Education Programs with Labor Market Needs (REL Appalachia). West Virginia Department of Education's (WVDE) Career and Technical Education leaders have expressed concerns about the alignment of credentialing opportunities along the path toward sustainable careers. For example, WVDE leaders have questioned whether students who graduate from high school with industry credentials have access to regional postsecondary opportunities to continue their training and whether students' educational opportunities align with employment opportunities in their own or nearby counties. The proposed study seeks to address these regional concerns by providing a data-driven look at the extent to which the CTE programs of study offered in high schools provide students with the necessary credentials for projected high-demand occupations by region in West Virginia and will assess the extent to which the postsecondary programs in the region provide the necessary credentials for the high-demand occupations that are linked to high school CTE programs and that also require postsecondary training.
  • The Postsecondary Pathways of Minnesota Public High School Graduates: Investigating Opportunity Gaps (REL Midwest). The Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance is investigating the postsecondary pathways of Minnesota public high school graduates, focusing on opportunity gaps by high school locale and student characteristics, including gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English proficiency, and disability status. Drawing on data from Minnesota's Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System, this study is examining the postsecondary pathways taken by the state's public high school graduates immediately following high school graduation and their postsecondary and labor market outcomes six years later.
  • Ready for college and careers in Washington state? How secondary and postsecondary outcomes change for diverse populations when new graduation requirements take effect (REL Northwest). As Washington state's class of 2019 prepares for more rigorous high school graduation requirements, stakeholders are concerned about how these changes might affect graduation rates and postsecondary outcomes, especially for rural, English learner, racially/ethnically diverse, and economically disadvantaged students—groups that have persistently lower graduation rates than the state average. This study aims to inform implementation efforts by helping state and local education leaders better understand how increases in credit requirements relate to high school outcomes, completion, and postsecondary readiness across the state.
  • Reducing Summer Melt in Rhode Island (REL Northeast and Islands). Low-income and minority students in Rhode Island enroll in college at a lower rate than do their peers. To try to reduce this gap in college access, Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner has developed a low-cost text-messaging pilot intervention based on similar programs that have demonstrated positive impacts. A sample of students in high schools with high percentages of low-income students will be randomly assigned to receive the text-messaging intervention, thereby allowing use of a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of this pilot intervention in the state.


  • Achieving Graduation Equity (REL Northwest). North Clackamas School District is one of several in Oregon that has made considerable progress in the area of graduation equity. The district's overall graduation rates have increased—and most notably, it has closed the graduation gap for Latino students. In this REL Northwest video, you will learn about the policy and program changes behind this achievement and how North Clackamas School District was able to implement the changes, sustain the strategy, and overcome barriers thanks to a laser-like focus on equity.
  • Adding it up: The value of education and work experience in Alaska (REL Northwest). This short animated video explains how education and work experience affected the employment and wages of 40,000 young Alaskans who left school between 2005 and 2008. The video focuses on the findings in the study, Alaska students' pathways from high school to postsecondary education and employment.
  • Behind the Findings: Dual Credit Programs in Kentucky (REL Appalachia). In this video, Dr. Patricia Kannapel dives deeper into the findings and implications of REL Appalachia's study on the implementation of dual credit programs in Kentucky. The study found that although Kentucky's districts are keenly promoting dual credit programs to further college and career readiness, program implementation varied widely among the six districts in the study. Dr. Kannapel discusses these findings and possible solutions to ensure equitable access to dual credit programs across school districts.
  • Bridging Research and Practice: Competency-Based Learning Research Symposium (REL Northeast and Islands) The Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance hosted a daylong symposium that brought together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to discuss new research and practice in competency-based learning in New England and beyond.
  • Collaborative Research and the College and Career Success Research Alliance (REL Midwest). Alliance lead Matt Soldner discusses the work of REL Midwest's College and Career Success Research Alliance.
  • Collaborative Survey Design: Focus on Competency-Based Learning (REL Northeast and Islands) With support from the Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance, REL Northeast & Islands worked with educators and students across the region to design a survey to understand students' experiences with key elements of competency-based learning and their understanding of districts' competency-based learning policies.
  • Competency-Based Learning: Definitions, Policies, and Implementation (REL Northeast and Islands) A brief overview of findings from a REL Northeast & Islands study of proficiency- or competency-based learning in the Northeast, drawing on twenty interviews in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
  • How well does high school GPA predict success in college-level courses among first-time college students? (REL Northwest). This short animated video shares the findings of two REL Northwest studies that found high school GPA was better than college placement test scores at predicting college course grades for recent high school graduates in Alaska. The findings suggest high school GPA should be considered as part of the college placement process.
  • Perspectives on the Current Landscape of Competency-Based Learning Research (REL Northeast and Islands) Paul Leather, deputy commissioner of education for New Hampshire, discussed competency-based learning reform in his state and presented a case study on the PACE pilot accountability program, which provides alternate routes for students to demonstrate measurable progress.
  • Preparing Alaska Students for Postsecondary Success Diane Hirshberg (REL Northwest). Diane Hirshberg, Director, UAA Center for Alaska Education, talks about the need for Alaska to focus on helping at-risk students prepare for postsecondary success. She outlines a few indicators that a student is underperforming, including ninth-grade mathematics and college entrance exam scores.
  • Preparing Alaska Students for Postsecondary Success Lindsay Daugherty (REL Northwest). Lindsay Daugherty of the Rand Corporation discusses obstacles in the long road to postsecondary achievement, as well as potential intervention strategies to make sure students who apply for college attend and graduate.
  • Preparing Alaska Students for Postsecondary Success Terri Akey (REL Northwest). Terri Akey outlines the alliance's major objectives and addresses the task of defining college and career readiness for Alaska students.
  • Preparing a Career-Ready Student (REL Southeast). Career development research and theory suggest that growth in distinct areas is required to help adolescents develop strategically planned, adaptive, and proactive approaches to their post-high school transitions. This video shares important aspects of preparing a career-ready student including an explanation as to the critical nature of career readiness practices and testimonials of practical applications.
  • The Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance Examines Proficiency-Based Learning (REL Northeast and Islands). The video examines the Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance's preliminary research agenda and the opportunity for collaborative research on college and career readiness across the region.

Archived Webinars

  • Closing the Achievement Gap: Research from New Mexico (REL Southwest, November 8, 2017). In 2009, New Mexico adopted more rigorous high school graduation requirements. This November 2017 webinar recording presents the findings from two REL Southwest studies that examined changes in New Mexico high school students' advanced course completion and graduation rates under the new requirements. The studies were conducted in partnership with our New Mexico Achievement Gap Research Alliance.
  • Increasing First-Generation Students' College Success Through Individualized Advising (REL Northwest, October 4, 2017). This REL Northwest webinar, Increasing First-Generation Students' College Success Through Virtual and In-Person Individualized Advising and Support, explores two comprehensive financial and advising programs that have made substantial gains in helping underrepresented students earn a degree. The webinar begins with a brief overview of the research evidence on such programs. Next, learn how Portland Community College's Future Connect in-person coaching services and the Dell Scholars Program's virtual support model have contributed to rising rates of college completion for many low-income and first-generation students. Discover practical strategies you can use with high school and postsecondary students.
  • Leveraging Postsecondary Data to Increase College Access (REL Northeast and Islands, September 20, 2017) This webinar explores recent research on the ways states and districts are using administrative postsecondary data, including to track graduates' postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and success. Included in the presentation are remarks from Dr. Benjamin Castleman, who discusses a low-cost, short-cycle randomized controlled trial that used postsecondary data to assess the effectiveness of an inexpensive, text message-based college-access program that aims to reduce "summer melt."
  • Predictors and Indicators of College Readiness and Success (REL Midwest, REL Southeast, REL Southwest, REL Pacific, and REL West, November, 29, 2016). In this webinar, REL researchers discuss recent research and publications which address indicators identifiable in high school and early college of students' likelihood to meet with success in postsecondary academics.
  • Bridge Event: Developing Culturally Responsive College and Career Readiness Literacy Skills (REL Northeast and Islands, May 10, 2016). The USVI College and Career Readiness Research Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands and Dr. Helen Duffy discuss the link between literacy and success in higher education and the workforce, with a focus on the US Virgin Islands.
  • Supporting Hispanic Students Preparing for STEM Careers (REL Southwest, September 24, 2015). This bridge event webinar presents evidence-based strategies to support Hispanic students preparing for careers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The presenters examine factors that influence Hispanic students' success in STEM degrees as well as strategies to support this success as students prepare for college. The webinar is in four parts:
  • A Northeast Region View of Competency-Based Learning (REL Northeast and Islands, August 17, 2015) REL Northeast & Islands researchers present a study on definitions and policies related to competency-based learning and implementation across the northeast region, and a representative from the New Hampshire Department of Education discusses the implementation of a competency-based program in several pilot districts.
  • Implementing College Readiness Indicator Systems: A REL Northwest Webinar (REL Northwest, April 30, 2015). This webinar introduces a leading framework for understanding college readiness and for guiding system development. Also presented are findings from two case studies emerging from the College Readiness Indicator System Initiative that describe and analyze how college readiness indicator systems are being "brought off the page."
  • Summer Advantage: Counseling within a Collaborative Model for College Readiness (REL West, April 23, 2015). Norco College counselor Marissa Iliscupidez presents the Summer Advantage Program, a summer enrichment and orientation program for students transitioning from high school to community college. The program is designed to accurately place students in English and math courses at their ability level and help incoming students create education plans.
  • Making Good on the Promise of College Readiness for All by Dr. Robert Balfanz (REL Mid-Atlantic, March 2015): This presentation by Dr. Robert Balfanz, Research Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, examines what it takes, starting in the middle grades, to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and career.
  • Proficiency- and Competency-Based Learning: Emerging Research on Implementation Outcomes (REL Northeast and Islands, May 6, 2014). The Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands hosted a Bridge Event Webinar to explore emerging research on proficiency- and competency-based learning and its implications for practice in states, districts, and schools.
  • Successful College Transition: Research, Policy, and Practice Perspectives from the USVI (REL Northeast and Islands, November 6, 2013). In support of the Virgin Islands Department of Education efforts to increase high school graduation rates and better prepare students for postsecondary success, the US Virgin Islands College and Career Readiness Research Alliance hosted this Bridge Event focused on successful college transition.
  • Aspirations of Rural Youth (REL Southwest, October 3, 2013). This bridge event webinar examines rural schools' challenges and successes in supporting students in the transition to college and careers. Award-winning professor Dr. Judith L. Meece presents findings from the Rural High School Aspirations Study, after which two assistant superintendents share their successes and challenges. The webinar is in four parts:
  • Connecting Adolescent Development to College Readiness A REL Northwest Event (REL Northwest, September, 2013). This event by Dr. Mandy Savitz Romer shared ways to engage students in planning for their own college success, generate meaningful support from families, and use data to track the success of college access programs.
  • College and Career Readiness in Alaska A REL Northwest Event (REL Northwest, June 2013). Alaska education policymakers and other stakeholders concerned about preparing Alaska students for postsecondary success attended this REL Northwest-sponsored event. This video shows the presentation of Dr. Manuelito Biag, a nationally known expert on college readiness indicator systems
  • Staying on Track for College Readiness A REL Northwest Webinar (REL Northwest, June 6, 2013). This webinar provides an overview of college indicator research and implementation across the country. Presenters Jenny Nagaoka of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research and Dr. Susan Fairchild of New Visions for Public Schools discuss how educators and educational systems use indicator tools grounded in a routine process for accessing and interpreting data.
  • Standards-Based Grading and Assessing Student Mastery of Content (REL Northeast and Islands, May 30, 2013). The Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands explored the research on grading and new approaches to making grading policies more effective and reflective of student mastery of learning.
  • Increasing Access to College Preparatory Courses in Rural Communities Through Dual Enrollment (REL Appalachia, September 24, 2012). REL Appalachia hosted an informative presentation on the latest research pertaining to dual enrollment programs and their relationship to high school graduation, college enrollment, and college retention.
  • College and Career Readiness: Secondary and Postsecondary Perspectives (REL Northeast and Islands, August 30, 2012). The Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands hosted this Bridge Event as part of their research agenda to support several Northeast states in their efforts to increase graduation rates and ensure students' readiness for college-level work and the work force.


For more resources in ERIC on the topic of College and Career Readiness, click here.

For more resources in the What Works Clearinghouse on the topic of College and Career Readiness, click here.