What Does 'College Ready' Really Mean?
Sixteen-year-old Andrew Shaw* is a star football player at his Orange County, California high school. By his mother's definition, Andrew will be college ready after he achieves a high score on the AP English exam. She hopes her son will make use of his writing and debating skills to pursue a career in law. His father, on the other hand, says Andrew will be ready for college once he transfers to a local high school known for producing college football stars. Is one parent's perception of 'college ready' more valid than the other?
"'College ready' is not the same for everyone," said Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) president Robert Templin, a panelist at the "Innovation and America's Future" Forum. "If you're moving into a technical field, it's one thing. If you're going into business, it's another. In manufacturing, statistical process control might be more important than calculus."
To take Templin's point a step further, it's one thing for a high school student to know she wants to pursue engineering over finance, however it's another to determine whether she has enough of a foundation in mathematics to be prepared for college-level math courses. Templin noted that more than half of the high school graduates recently admitted to NOVA are not college ready and require remediation classes. In some cases, Templin stated, this lack of preparedness translates to a year of tuition spent on refresher courses and a year of potential earnings lost from not being in the workforce.
College readiness today entails encouraging students as early as middle school to think about what they want to pursue as a career, and to get them focused on electives that can provide the necessary knowledge. NOVA's "Pathway to the Baccalaureate" program, which we will cover in tomorrow's post, embeds school counselors in high schools for this purpose.
Some may argue that middle school students today lack the maturity and foresight to know what type of career they wish to pursue. In some cases, as forum panelist Jane Oates of the U.S. Department of Labor noted, parents do more harm than good in their efforts to ensure their school-age children are leading balanced lives. In one school district, parental lobbying resulted in a measure to limit the importance of homework.
It may be true that 'college ready' is no longer a one-size-fits-all definition. But if the future of our economy rests on innovation, it's time to establish standard college-ready criteria with an eye toward the needs of the future workforce.
*Name changed for privacy