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College and Career Readiness

Defining College and Career Readiness

**Darche, S. (2011, July). College and career readiness: What do we mean? [Working draft]. Berkeley, CA: ConnectEd: California Center for College and Career. Not available online.

This document presents an operational definition of college and career readiness for use in the Linked Learning field. The author synthesizes the work of leading researchers in the fields of career development, workforce development, career and technical education, and the larger context of education reform to provide an overview of the current debate about what young people need to achieve postsecondary success. The author then provides a framework that describes the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that prepare students for both college and career.  The framework also emphasizes the importance of having the practical skills necessary to navigate and manage one’s educational and career development.

Lippman, L. & Keith, J. (2009). A developmental perspective on workplace readiness: Preparing high school students for success. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Available at

This brief, a summary of a larger report, discusses behaviors, skills, and competencies in the areas of social, cognitive and psychological development that may prepare a person for college, the workforce, or for healthy youth development in general. The authors offer suggestions for how high schools can adapt curricula and student support systems to foster these skills, including integrating career and technical with traditional education and offering project-based learning opportunities. 

Considering Workforce Skills

Association for Career and Technical Education. (2010). What is “career ready”? Alexandria, VA: Author. Available at

This brief defines what it means to be “career ready” in response to increased attention to the topic from state and national policymakers. According to the authors, to be career ready (regardless of postsecondary plans), students must develop: 1) core academic skills and the ability to apply them in context; 2) employability skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and critical thinking; and 3) job-specific knowledge and technical skills related to a specific career pathway.

Casner-Lotto, J., Barrington, L., & Wright, M. (2006). Are they really ready to work? Employers’ perspectives on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century U.S. workforce. U.S.A: The Conference Board, Inc., Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, & Society for Human Resource Management. (Executive summary excerpt of complete document.) Available at

Based on a survey of over 400 human resource professionals, this report synthesizes employers’ views about preparedness of new workforce entrants. Overall, employers report a lack of both basic knowledge and applied skills amongst new workforce entrants at the high school and college level. The study finds that employers place higher value on applied skills such as work ethic, teamwork, critical thinking, and communication than they do on basic knowledge skills. The authors suggest project- and work-based learning as a strategy for bolstering students’ applied skill set.

Defining College and Career Readiness

Conley, D. T. (2007). Toward a more comprehensive conception of college readiness. Eugene, OR: Educational Policy Improvement Center. Available at

The author notes that the current definition of college readiness, based on high school courses taken, grades, and scores on national tests, is outdated and limited. Conley argues for a more expansive definition that accounts for and connects four areas—habits of mind, key content, academic behaviors, and contextual skills and awareness. The author discusses different ways to measure this expanded definition, including the gathering of classroom evidence, end of course exams, and questionnaires. The report concludes with implications of this expanded definition and explores what schools and students can do to achieve college readiness. (Note: This piece was previously provided in the briefing binders for Meetings 5 and 15 and so we have only included it here electronically.)

**This document is considered a priority reading.