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While K–12 educators nationwide are continuing to deal with an unconventional back-to-school season and what promises to be a unique 2020/21 academic year, it’s important to remember that preparing students for life after high school is a key component of their learning process.

Postsecondary education continues to be important to students’ career prospects. This has led many education leaders throughout the country to establish frameworks to more accurately assess how effectively schools and districts are preparing students for college and careers.

Having quality data on students’ levels of preparedness for college and careers is of great benefit to state and local education agencies. By knowing where they stand and how they compare to their peers, agencies can better strategize how to improve their standing.

Since the authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, many state education agencies have been redesigning their school and district accountability systems to account for factors that go beyond traditional indicators of academic achievement such as grade point average or standardized test scores. In many cases, these systems have grown to include indicators of college and career readiness, such as the identification of a career pathway, intention to pursue a postsecondary degree or professional certification, or possession of a variety of 21st century skills.

Being able to assess future postsecondary success requires state and local education agencies to gauge how effectively their schools or districts foster overall student preparedness. Multifaceted statistical models are an effective method for assessing this dynamic, given the inherent difficulty in establishing a causal connection between the actions of schools/districts and students’ postsecondary success.

The College and Career Readiness Research Alliance (CCR RA) at REL Central – a cross-state group of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners who share a common goal of ensuring that all students graduate from high school prepared to enter the workforce or enroll in postsecondary degree or certification programs – has helped state and local education agencies develop models to assess postsecondary success. The CCR RA is currently focused on several research projects, including Examination of the Reliability and Validity of the Kansas Clinical Assessment Tool, Measuring Civic Readiness: A Review of Instruments, and Examining the Impact of Career and Technical Education Course-Taking in Two States.

In another project that was completed for the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE), REL Central reviewed college and career readiness indicators used by education agencies and researchers. This project supported NDE in considering indicators to incorporate into its innovative district accountability system – the Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow.

Projects such as these enable state and local education agencies to examine how well their schools and districts are preparing students for colleges and careers. If you have further questions about college and career readiness assessments, be sure to fill out an online Ask A REL form.