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College- and Career-Ready Standards


The increasingly global economy and complex world have changed the demands on the U.S. education system. Unlike in the first half of the twentieth century, a high school diploma is no longer sufficient to secure a good-paying job. Today, approximately 65 percent of all jobs—compared to 28 percent in 1973—require some form of postsecondary education, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Meanwhile, the percentage of jobs requiring a high school diploma or less continues to shrink. In 1973, 72 percent of jobs were open to high school graduates; now, that percentage has fallen to just 34 percent.

In response to mounting evidence and feedback from colleges, universities, employers, and the military that many high school graduates are unprepared for success in college and a career, federal and state policymakers have acted to align K–12 education with higher education course work and workforce demands. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) codifies college and career readiness as a national goal and requires states to adopt “challenging State academic standards” that include at least three levels of achievement. The federal law requires states to have learning standards for math, reading or language arts, science, and any other subject mandated by the state. Each state must demonstrate that their “challenging State academic standards are aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework [sic] in the system of public higher education in the State and relevant State career and technical education standards.”

These challenging college- and career-ready standards have the potential to transform teaching and learning in the United States, ensuring that students master key concepts and skills that form the powerful building blocks of lifelong learners. They also hold the promise that high expectations will exist for all students, regardless of their zip code.

Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.