How Will ESSA Impact College and Career Readiness?

Posted by Jaime DonallyO

Despite never being explicitly mentioned Every Student Succeeds Act, college and career readiness has enjoyed increased attention from state boards of education as a result of the federal government’s policy overhaul.


The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) went into full effect at the start of the current academic year. While much has been made of the ways in which ESSA changes both accountability and professional development at the district level, the legislation might also end up having a notable — and generally positive — effect on students’ college and career readiness.


Considering that the phrase “college and career readiness” does not appear anywhere in the text of the bill, it’s no surprise that this byproduct of ESSA has received less attention. However, despite the absence of a clear legal mandate, many states chose to integrate college and career readiness initiatives into their ESSA accountability plans.


In short, the Act required states to develop accountability standards related to critical performance indicators in five areas: proficiency in reading and math, high school graduation rates, English language proficiency, student growth throughout elementary and middle school, and one additional indicator of school quality or success. This final “wildcard” indicator has empowered states to augment their existing — and in some cases, create brand new — college and career readiness programs while simultaneously fulfilling their new federal accountability obligations.



Encouraging Commitments to Postsecondary Preparation


State ESSA plans are still very much in the process of being rolled out, but if states can follow through on their outlined ambitions, college and career readiness will take a far more central position than it did under No Child Left Behind.


According to a report compiled by education advocacy group Advance CTE, 49 state ESSA plans include at least one strategy for expanding college and/or career readiness across their public school districts. Of these plans, 28 feature specific college and/or career readiness language as part of their vision for student progress.


In South Carolina, for instance, the state’s “Profile of a South Carolina Graduate” details the “world-class knowledge” — including “rigorous standards in language arts and math for career and college readiness” — “world-class skills,” and “life and career characteristics” that students will need to be competitive, productive participants in the modern global economy. The state’s Board of Education hopes that by 2035, 90 percent of the state’s high school graduates will fit this Profile.


The Advance CTE report also lauds Alabama and Oklahoma for crafting long-term statewide achievement goals that are directly tied to college and career readiness. In Alabama, “All students in the classes of 2021-24 [should] meet at least one college or career readiness indicator, and…all students in the classes of 2025-30 [should] meet at least one college readiness indicator and one career readiness indicator.”


In Oklahoma, the state ESSA plan aims to cut the need for postsecondary math and English remediation in half by 2025 — currently, “39 percent (as compared to 32 percent nationally) of all first-year Oklahoma college students who graduated from an Oklahoma public high school require remedial courses before earning college credit.” Further, the state strives to “ensure that 100 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 develop a useful and meaningful Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP).”



Facilitating College and Career Readiness


As encouraging as these developments are, the Advance CTE report takes pains to emphasize that goal-setting is only the first of many steps states must take to improve their students’ college and career readiness. “States must now turn their plans into reality,” the report reads, “and that means partnering with districts and schools to confront issues of access, professional development, and alignment of pathways across K-12 and postsecondary education.”


Ultimately, facilitating this level of longitudinal coordination between state boards of education and districts and among multiple stakeholders within individual districts requires sophisticated data management tools and procedures. At Hoonuit, we’re committed to providing districts with intuitive, real-time access to student and school datasets to facilitate the analyses and conversations needed to give students the highest chance of postsecondary success.


Our suite of analytics tools is designed to find patterns in district data, highlight at-risk students, and pinpoint opportunities for improvement. We empower stakeholders up and down the educational ladder to do everything they can to not only meet any and all ESSA requirements but to provide top-notch support to students at every step of their educational journey.

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