The first goal of Missouri’s Top 10 by 20 campaign is ensuring all Missouri students graduate college and career ready. The Missouri Learning Standards were developed to help kids reach that goal. But what does “college and career ready” really mean?
To put it simply, “college and career ready” means that students have the education they need for their futures, whether they go to a two- or four-year college or head straight into employment training after high school. Let’s break it down to dig into why this depth of education is so important.
For kids to graduate “college ready” means they have the core knowledge and deep understanding of subjects to avoid remediation as college freshmen. Currently, nearly a third of Missouri students need remedial classes when they enter college. The Missouri Learning Standards could help lower or even eliminate that need by providing students the skills they require to succeed in entry-level courses.
ACT scores are another gauge used to predict future academic success. Reaching a benchmark score on the ACT exam indicates a 50 percent chance of a student earning a B or higher in entry-level college courses. In Missouri, more than 70 percent of students taking the ACT English portion score at or above the benchmark. That’s great, but fewer than half of Missouri’s students score above the benchmarks for reading, math or science. There’s clearly progress to be made.
College ready standards certainly apply to acceptance at four-year institutions, but not every child wants or needs a four-year degree. Reaching the standards would also mean that students are adequately prepared for courses at a two-year college that grants associate degrees or any other postsecondary training that grants licenses or certificates, such as those for plumbers, electricians and mechanics.
If new standards can help students enter college without the need for remediation, can they also help kids land jobs? Yes, and higher-paying jobs at that. You might wonder why we need stronger standards in English language arts and math for the workplace. In a recent survey of human resources managers, nearly half said 2013 graduates lack basic writing skills, including grammar and spelling. HR professionals also complained of a lack of math and speaking skills. Respondents said the following professionals are the hardest to find:
- Highly skilled technicians and programmers
- Skilled trades workers such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers
- Managers and executives
Employers say there’s a shortage of workers who can communicate effectively in writing for technical reports, proposals, bids and memos. They also need workers with the critical thinking skills that are included as part of the Common Core State Standards.
Math skills are needed for preparing budgets, writing and analyzing cost reports, even figuring area, density or materials requirements for manufacturing applications. Physical strength and dexterity are no longer enough as technology becomes more prevalent even in blue-collar positions. Yet, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, U.S. workers fall far behind their foreign peers in the skills they need. The report states, “The US performance is (comparatively) weak on literacy, very poor on numeracy, but only a little worse than average on problem solving in technology rich environments. Broadly speaking, the weakness affects the entire skills distribution, so that the U.S. has proportionately more people with weak skills than some other countries and fewer people with strong skills.” See the entire study.
“Career ready” means more than just the ability to get a job. It means making a living wage that could support a family and having a chance for advancement. Most of those opportunities require postsecondary training or a degree.
Students deserve to have an education that prepares them to lead a fulfilling life in school and beyond and to actively participate in their jobs and communities. The Missouri Learning Standards help build that foundation throughout K-12 education to produce independent graduates ready for college and career.