School success in the future likely will be assessed not only by completing high school, but also by entering and succeeding in college. Skilled workers are essential to a competitive economy, yet many students are underprepared for college and less than half of students who enter college complete a degree or certificate within six years. College and career readiness refers to students’ preparation—academic and nonacademic—to succeed in college and the workforce.
At the national level, states have sought to improve college and career readiness through the adoption and implementation of academic standards that are aligned with college and career readiness. All of the Midwest region states have adopted the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and six of the seven states have adopted the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. In addition, all states served by REL Midwest have applied for—and five (all but Illinois and Iowa) have received—waivers from certain Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) accountability requirements through a process that commits the state education agency to implementing four principles, including establishing college- and career-ready expectations for all students.
Closely tied to the issue of college and career readiness is the challenge of dropout prevention and ensuring that students complete high school. States and districts in our region are approaching these challenges using a number of strategies and initiatives to support students’ progression through the secondary grades and transitions into postsecondary opportunities. Virtual education is also relevant to both college and career readiness and dropout prevention. From Advanced Placement courses to academic credit recovery, online learning programs offer access to a range of opportunities that support completing a diploma or beginning postsecondary endeavors.