This post is authored by Dr. Cassandre Giguere Alvarado, Director of Special Initiatives at The University of Texas at Austin and Principal Investigator of the CRAfT project.
As the new school year approaches, perhaps you’ve been reflecting, as great teachers do, on how last year went and what you might be changing this year as you greet new faces. Maybe you’re wondering if all the challenging and wonderful things you do in your classroom are getting your students ready for the college classrooms and career environments they will be heading off to over the next couple years.
If these thoughts have crossed your mind, we’d like to set it at ease a bit with the CRAfT team’s list of the Top 10 Things to Know about College Readiness. While this list is brief, all 10 things are based on research and are connected to resources on our website to give you more detailed information.
1. Readiness is NOT a binary.
Myths abound that students are either college ready or not college ready. In reality, college readiness is not a single measure but a complex range of skills and abilities.
Related Video: Defining College Readiness
2. You can’t tell by test scores alone if someone is college ready.
While there are state standard measures of college readiness (read about them here and here), standardized tests are mostly designed to assess content knowledge, not the full range of skills and academic behaviors needed to be successful in college and career. While some students lack content knowledge, they arrive ready to tackle academic behaviors (like effective study strategies, an understanding of when material is confusing for them, and the ability to pose critical questions) and self-regulation (like the ability to manage time and to persist at challenging tasks). Other students with test scores that suggest a level of content readiness find that they lack the skills to be successful across all dimensions of readiness.
Related Video: Growth Mindset in Action: Grit
3. College readiness is not just for high school seniors.
Students in all grade levels need support in preparing for a college ready mindset. This mindset includes academic behaviors, skills and of course, content knowledge. What helps develop students into college ready persons is reinforcement of the skills needed for all of the years of their schooling, not just the last one. While CRAs were developed to be used primarily in later high school and introductory college classes, the approaches to key cognitive skills and foundational skills included in each CRA are what makes them valuable readiness tools. Plus, you can adapt the existing CRAs to fit your students’ needs!
4. College readiness isn’t just about content readiness.
As research demonstrates, student mindset, academic self-efficacy and academic behaviors contribute as much to college readiness as content knowledge. That’s why it’s important throughout a student’s education to provide challenging material that doesn’t simply ask them to repeat facts, but also gives them the ability to practice and develop competence in many area.
Related Video: Anatomy of a Scoring Guide
5. Readiness for college and career are a lot alike.
Employers and college professors are both looking for the same thing: critical thinkers who can solve problems, read and communicate well, and use their talents efficiently. Even students who are not preparing to attend a four-year institution benefit from learning skills labeled as college ready skills. Also, for students who do not immediately pursue higher education after high school, 75% will likely end up pursuing some sort of post-secondary course, certificate or credential.
Related Blog Post and Video: Career Readiness: What is it really? and Are College Readiness and Career Readiness the Same?
6. Completing high school alone does not make someone ready for college or career.
A college ready student is one who is prepared, across all dimensions of readiness, to succeed in post-secondary environments. Not all graduates are college ready when they leave high school. In fact, that’s why THECB and TEA created standards that didn’t just reflect what was necessary for high school completion but that represented what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college and career. This is precisely why all the CRAs on CRAfTx.org are aligned with the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards.
Related Resource: Texas College and Career Readiness Standards
7. Readiness is not just for students who struggle academically
Studies of students, even at the country’s most elite institutions of higher education, suggest that even students who are most prepared content wise, still struggle with their transition from high school to college. Find out what students wish they knew before they came to college. (hint: it wasn’t the quadratic equation or the dates of the Franco-Prussian war)
Related Blog Post: Student Testimonials
8. Focusing on readiness can improve outcomes for students, even while they are still in high school.
A key factor in preparing students to be college ready is the transition from memorization and repetition to synthesis and analysis. Strengthening the skills of students in these areas has positive outcomes for students in many academic areas, including standardized tests.
Related Blog Post: Spotlight on Data
9. Readiness is achievable.
Readiness is not innate; all students have the ability to improve their skills. Just as important as developing readiness skills is developing a mindset in which students believe they are capable of growth. Students who understand that their intelligence is not fixed at one level succeed at higher rates.
Related Video: Helping Students Learn: Growth Mindset
10. Readiness is teachable.
Students don’t magically become college ready; they are taught how to be college ready. While much of the focus of becoming college ready has been on content mastery, teachers play an important role in supporting students’ readiness in other dimensions, too. Assignments, classroom expectations, attitudes, and behaviors toward readiness all contribute to students’ ability to be successful in college and career. The CRAs provide assignments for all major content areas that focus both on specific knowledge acquisition as well as skill development.
Related Video: Anatomy of a CRA