Considerable research has focused on what it means to be college and career ready. Certainly, the skills students need to be successful today whether in college or in the workplace, differs from the skills needed twenty years ago. In today's globally interconnected society, students must be prepared to compete with others students on the world stage.
It is no longer sufficient to focus solely on acquiring key content knowledge without the application and transfer to real world and authentic experiences. Learning occurs both in and outside the formal classroom through a variety of different activities where learning is the constant and time is the variable. This learning begins in preschool/kindergarten and continues into high school and beyond.
Currently, districts are revising and aligning their curricula based largely upon the research of David Conley and others. Dr. Conley identifies four major components of college and career readiness:
- Key Content is the knowledge and skills obtained through the study of academics; English, mathematics, science, social studies, world languages, arts, coupled with the ability to write proficiency in a variety of genres; financial, business and civic literacy are also critical.
- Key Cognitive Strategies is the ability to learn content from a range of disciplines; intellectual curiosity, inquisitiveness, ability to accurately analyze data and information, open-mindedness to new viewpoints, critical thinking skills, effective communication.
- Academic Behaviors are behaviors necessary for academic and career success; study skills, metacognition, understanding what is required to be successful and the ability to navigate the requirements independently.
- Contextual Skills and Awareness is understanding how higher education operates; admissions, expectations for achievement, financial aid system, job/college application requirements, etc. It's making the connections between the classroom and the world of work.
Twenty first century students must be proficient users of technology not only to access information, but to evaluate its credibility. They must have an understanding and sensitivity of the world's cultures and know how collaborate effectively with others even when hold differing views. In essence, educators must partner with the community and business to identify and revise PK-12 curricula to ensure 21st century skills are infused so the United States can maintain its status in the world.
- Marion H. Martinez, Ed.D.