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College and Work Ready Report Addresses Literacy and Math Skills Needs


May 7, 2013


College and Work Ready Report Addresses Literacy and Math Skills Needs

On May 7, I attended an event hosted by the National Center for Education and the Economy focused on the release of the organization's new report, "What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready? The Mathematics and English Literacy Required of First Year Community College Students." A series of six panels discussed the key findings of the report and implications for the education system.

Some of the findings in the report include: 

  • Mathematics needed is mostly middle school mathematics
  • Algebra II is not a prerequisite for success in community college or in most careers; high schools should abandon requirement that all high school students take it
  • Mathematics tested in community colleges falls far short of what is in students' textbooks and short of what they need in careers they have chosen
  • Industry courses rarely require students to do the kind of writing required of workers in the industry for which they are training
  • Community college students need better instruction in constructing arguments and in laying out their thinking logically and persuasively. Such writing is essential in many workplaces.

There was significant emphasis throughout the day on assessments and also on teacher preparation and professional development. Several panelists noted the need for a change in assessments to a system which is better aligned with instruction, something which they noted is missing today. Panelists were generally positive about the Common Core state standards and its focus on targeting some of the instructional issues that need to be addressed such as increased focus on informational texts, disciplinary practice and student engagement. However, there was far less optimism concerning the ability of the Common Core to drive the extent of change needed.

Generally speaking, there was agreement that instruction needs to much more contextualized and I was pleased to hear at least one panelist mention the need for improved career pathways for students so they understand what courses are needs to reach career goals. The final panel, focused on implications for work, careers and vocational education, addressed how employers could be more involved in supporting the types of education needed to address the skills gap. Robert Schwartz with the Pathways to Prosperity project said that postsecondary education was in a better position to address employer needs due to its existing connections with business in industry. Both panelists noted the need to integrate literacy and math within CTE instruction.

ACTE has been active in the debate about career readiness. View our "What is Career Ready?" definition  and the Career Ready Partner Council statement on career readiness.

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