Are colleges ready for “college ready”?

Over the past several years, we’ve thought a lot about clusters, vertical alignment, and upward trajectories for students. And it seems as though we are identifying strategies, programs, and systems that work – for example, our AP/STEM Program both offers professional development to AP and pre-AP teachers and creates the foundation for increased collaboration between middle and high school core subject teachers. In some of our partner districts, we have even gone so far as to engage local businesses and colleges and universities with middle and high school students, giving the students a glimpse of their future possibilities and a goal to work toward. Nationally, however, vertical alignment remains a problem.

Enter the world of higher education. Expectations, campuses, fees, and experiences vary among institutions, but according to a recent Politico article, one constant exists: colleges are not ready for Common Core-educated students. That is not to say higher education is not aware of the changes in instruction and content the Common Core State Standards require. The article points out that in some states, State Boards of Higher Education were required to approve the standards to ensure rigor for future college students, and professors from colleges across the nation held seats on the task forces that designed the standards. And according to one source, these professors found the standards to be an accurate depiction of the knowledge and skills students require to be considered “college- and career-ready.” Additionally, state systems in six states are either aligning courses to the standards or putting processes in place to use students’ Common Core assessment scores to guide their placement.

So what’s the problem? While the higher education community has been a constant voice and actor in the Common Core conversations, not all institutions of higher education have figured out what deems a student “ready” – and thus exempt from remedial courses – when they enter college or university.

The article doesn’t identify a solution to the problem, but offers advice on the “low-hanging fruit,” as identified by a policy analyst with the New American Education Policy Program, by encouraging colleges to at least begin aligning entry-level courses with the Common Core so as to provide a more seamless transition for students.

This article raises really interesting points about the importance of taking a holistic view of the Common Core implementation to ensure that any domino effects of the standards are explored and addressed.