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Analyses Look at State Policies on College and Career Readiness

For Release: March 9, 2021

Contact: Dorie Turner Nolt, (404) 861-1127,

The Alliance for Excellent Education today released a pair of analyses exploring the policies and systems states have in place to promote college and career readiness for all students.

The analyses find that while states are expanding career pathway options for high school students, states still need to adopt more robust measures of the rigor and quality of those programs to ensure they prepare all students, particularly the most vulnerable students, for the workforce. States also need to ensure they are not limiting students’ options after high school through their diploma pathways, the analyses find.

“These analyses show us that many states are working to make high school more relevant by offering pathways reflecting the range of options available to students after graduation,” said Deborah Delisle, president and CEO of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “However, simply giving choices to students isn’t enough—students need guidance to pick a pathway that aligns with their postsecondary goals. Further, states must ensure all of their high school pathways are clearly defined, rigorous, and accessible to students from all backgrounds, no matter if students plan to start a career, join the military, or attend college. Students deserve nothing less.”

The first analysis looks at how states measure the effectiveness of career training programs in high schools. It found that while states have increased options for career readiness in high school, they don’t actually measure whether these pathways successfully prepare students for jobs. The analysis finds that for many states, indicators measuring the quality of all students’ career preparation during high school are largely absent, limiting the ability of those states to ensure strong student outcomes, replicate success, and advance equity for historically underserved students.

The second analysis looks at the increasingly confusing—and inequitable—system of high school graduation requirements in many states that can lead to students making choices that limit their options after high school. The analysis finds that of the 29 states with graduation pathways, 13 states force students to choose between college and career pathways instead of blending the two so that students have a variety of options once they graduate. Rather than opening a door to opportunity beyond high school, some graduation pathways may close the door to certain postsecondary choices, particularly for historically underserved students including students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, English learners, and students with disabilities, the analysis found. The analysis spotlights important work on this issue happening in California.


The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

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Publication | Accountability and Support, Career and Technical Education, College and Career Pathways, Every Student Succeeds Act, High Schools

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A collection of fact sheets on three policy areas states have used to advanced career readiness: graduation pathways, competency-based policies, and accountability systems.
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February 23, 2021

Publication | College and Career Pathways, High Schools

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A 50-state review of high school graduation requirements and recommendations for graduation pathways that promote college and career readiness.
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