Skip to main content

Reading List: College Readiness: What it Means for All Students and for English Learners

**Conley, D. T. (2007). Toward a More Comprehensive Conception of College Readiness. Eugene, OR: Educational Policy Improvement Center. Available at


In this mongraph, Conley notes that the current definition of college readiness, based on high school courses taken, grades, and scores on national tests, is outdated and limited. Rather, Conley argues for a more expansive definition, one that includes the “factors both internal and external to the school environment” (p.12). His model includes four areas – habits of mind, key content, academic behaviors, and contextual skills and awareness and emphasizes the interconnectedness of all facets. He includes different ways to measure this expanded definition, including the gathering of classroom evidence, end of course exams, and questionnaires. Conley closes the report by discussing the implications of this expanded definition and exploring what schools and students can do to achieve college readiness.


Grubb, N., & Oakes, J. (2007). ‘Restoring Value’ to the High School Diploma: The Rhetoric and Practice of Higher Standards. Tempe, AZ: Education Policy Research Unit and Boulder, CO: Education and the Public Interest Center. Available at


In this article, the authors argue that high schools face intense pressure to reform and reinvent themselves. The movement for standards and rigor, which is often illustrated through the use of graduation requirements and exit exams, is the most commonly cited response. Yet, the authors point out that such reforms have long-term and negative consequences on inequality in high-school graduation rates. Rather then maintain a singular focus on high-school reform, the authors argue for multiple pathways that “seek to develop theme-based approaches through high schools,” a analogy similar to “majors and concentrations prevalent in postsecondary education.”


EdSource. (2005). The Movement to Transform High School. Available at


This research brief, based upon an EdSource forum on high school reform, outlines key points made during the two-day conference. It explores possible reforms, including increasing rigor though the A-G requirements, challenging the definition of college readiness, offering students multiple pathways to success, and discussing the role of small schools.


Achieve, Inc. (2007). Closing the Expectations Gap. Available at


This research brief details the progress that states have made in high school reform. Based upon survey findings, states continue to align their standards with postsecondary expectations, require students to complete rigorous graduation requirements, administer “college readiness” tests, create longitudinal data systems, and hold high schools responsible for college readiness. Each chapter outlines progress in each topic and discusses potential challenges.


Alliance for Excellent Education. (2006). Paying Double: Inadequate High Schools and Community College Remediation. Washington, DC. Available at


This issue brief explores the costs associated with providing remediation classes in community colleges. Currently, remediation costs the United States $3.7 billion in lost wages, government costs, and tuition costs. The brief closes with possible ways to reform high schools and prepare students for the “demands of college and the modern workforce.”


Implications for English Learners


**Gandara, P. (2007). Multiple Perspectives on Multiple Pathways: Multiple Pathways for Immigrant and English Learner Students. University of California at Los Angeles: Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. Not available online.


In this monograph, Gandara argues that current high school system is not working for English learner and immigrant students, as both groups appear to be making little success in gaining college degrees. She outlines and explores a new approach to high school reform, called Multiple Pathways, which combines “strong career and/or vocational elements with rigorous coursework in academic subjects.” After describing what a multiple pathway strategy would look like, Gandara notes the potential costs and benefits of this approach, closing the paper with potential next steps.


**This document is considered a priority reading.