College v. Career Ready

Emmanuel Felton:

Vocational tracks may be as old as public schools themselves, but what’s new in Kentucky is an accountability system that puts college and career on the same footing. Schools get a point for getting a student ready for college or a point for getting them career-ready. There’s an extra half bonus point for getting kids ready for both college and career.

“College- and career-ready” is now one of those say-it-10-times-fast terms in education that lots of people throw around, but few pick apart. When the Obama administration made some federal funding contingent on the adoption of college- and career-ready standards, most states decided college and career readiness were one and the same. In Kentucky, however, education officials have decided they are in fact quite different and that being ready to start a career — as a machinist, for example — doesn’t necessarily require students to follow a path that takes them through college. Schools offering this direct-to-career path aren’t allowed to lower their standards: They must aim for the same sort of rigorous benchmarks created for the college track, even if the expectations are more focused on technical skills and the ability to find and parse informational texts and apply math in occupational situations.

Kentucky is among just a handful of states that have created a designation for career-ready that is separate and distinct from college-ready. And it was the first state to put college and career on equal footing. Louisiana comes close — it now gives schools credit when students get industry credentials — but students must still pass a college-ready test….

Hibbard is banking on Southern’s career programs to get the school — long labeled one of Kentucky’s worst — off the list of the state’s 27 lowest performing schools this year.

The numbers are moving in the right direction: The proportion of Southern students the state says are ready for life after high school has risen from 13 percent to 57 percent in the five years since Kentucky has moved to a system that considers college as well as career readiness. Of the 270 students who graduated last spring, 117 were college-ready, 45 were ready for careers and 68 left ready for both.

Hibbard, a former state champion basketball coach, uses a large whiteboard hanging in his office to keep track of the progress of his seniors. By early February 2016, 75 seniors had passed either their college-ready or career-ready tests. He predicted the number of students who are career-ready would eclipse the number who are college-ready this year. But it’s more than just a numbers game to Hibbard.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.