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As the job market has become more competitive, job seekers have discovered that the skills of yesterday are not sufficient for the careers of today. While a high school diploma was adequate for success a generation ago, the bar is higher for today’s students. The information economy requires an advanced literacy that comes from a college-level education, and technical fields demand advanced training to keep up with the pace of change.
In order to prepare students for the advanced training and education that they will need after high school, Carroll County Schools is moving students toward College and Career Readiness (CCR). CCR students have demonstrated their mastery of content and skills by way of standardized exams or industry certifications. A College and Career-Ready student is prepared for college, the military or a career.
College-Ready students earn that title by hitting benchmarks in reading, mathematics and English on the ACT, Compass or Kentucky Online Testing Exam.
The ACT is the standard college entrance examination used nationwide. The Compass is made by ACT and is computer-based. It is used by some colleges and universities as an entrance examination and is considered equivalent to the ACT. The KYOTE mathematics and writing tests have been developed by the Council on Postsecondary Education along with Kentucky universities. It is mainly used as a CCR benchmark.
Students can hit those benchmarks through any combination of the tests. For example, a student could hit the reading benchmark on the ACT, the mathematics benchmark on the COMPASS and the English benchmark on the KYOTE. Of course, the student also could meet all three benchmarks on any one test.
While the actual CCR assessments are given while students are in high school, earlier grades help prepare students to succeed on those exams.
Kathryn Winn Principal Gerda Wise said that achievement must be above proficient to show that an elementary student is moving toward College and Career Readiness. Since the rigor of college is beyond what students experience in school, students must achieve at an advanced level to be prepared for the high school benchmark examinations.
At Cartmell Elementary School, Principal Doug Oak said that teachers and administrators create a growth plan to help their students move toward College and Career Readiness. By linking the benchmark scores of the ACT, which students take in high school, to tests that students take at lower grades, educators create a plan of instruction that maps out where students should be at different points of their educational progress. This ensures that students are ready for advanced instruction.
Being College and Career Ready means more than having a solid academic foundation; it also means having a clear idea of where that foundation will lead. While many students will pursue a college degree after high school, others will pursue advanced technical training.
“There are more paths to success than just a college degree,” said Carroll County Middle School instructional coach Jeff Fremin. “The Kentucky Commissioner of Education pointed out last year that the number of unskilled jobs is shrinking while the number of skilled careers is expanding.”
Student career interest begins to influence educational content as students advance through the grades. Starting in sixth grade, students take an annual online inventory called the Individual Learning Plan. This inventory gives students a series of surveys that determine their interests, skills and future career goals. Administrators then schedule times for professionals in those areas to meet with individual students and to speak to larger groups.
“We have between three and four speakers come each month to speak with students about different careers,” said CCMS Principal Dana Oak. “On top of that, every student meets at least once each year with an industry professional through our Operation Preparation program.”
Operation Preparation is a program for middle school and high school students. Based on Individual Learning Plan results and student choice, a professional in a career area meets with a student in a one-on-one setting to answer any questions and to tell the student more about that career path.
With College and Career Readiness as the goal, educators and parents can work together to ensure that Carroll County students have the skills needed to compete in a global economy. Students who are College and Career Ready are just that: ready to compete and succeed.
Carl Roberts is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.