College & Workforce Readiness

Advocates Press for New Definition of Career Readiness

By Catherine Gewertz — April 20, 2010 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As educators push schools to produce high school graduates who are ready to succeed in college or good jobs, an association of professionals in career and technical education is trying to influence policy by defining what it considers to be “career readiness.”

The definition, issued last week by the Association for Career and Technical Education, arrives as policymakers try to delineate the skills and knowledge students need to thrive as they move into higher education or a rapidly changing work world. A rough consensus is emerging on a definition of college readiness as the ability to pass entry-level, credit-bearing courses without remediation. But the definition of “career ready” generally gets less attention and often gets rolled into the college-readiness one.

The ACTE’s definition outlines three areas of strength that students need if they are to be ready for a 21st-century workplace.

One is a strong core of academic skills that would launch them into good jobs or entry-level college work without remedial classes. But to be “truly career-ready,” students also must know how to apply those academic skills in the context of the jobs they do, the organization says.

Special attention should be given to skills that employers often cite as deficient, the ACTE says. Those include skills in informational writing, such as the writing in memos and complex technical reports; and in mathematics, such as a nurse’s use of various calculations to administer medications.

In addition to academic and applied academic skills, the ACTE’s definition includes “employability” skills, such as adaptability, collaboration, and critical thinking, and field-specific “technical” skills.

Because most jobs will require some kind of education or training after high school, many students will not be able to acquire all the skills necessary to their career paths by graduation, but high schools still should strive to provide a strong foundation in all three areas, the Alexandria, Va.-based group says.

Not Either-Or

In developing the definition, the ACTE seeks the ear of policymakers who are shaping federal education law, Janet Bray, the group’s executive director, said in a conference call. The document is being distributed to every member of Congress as federal lawmakers discuss reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in his rhetoric urging improvements to education, “shortchanges” a fuller definition of career readiness that should shape education policy, Ms. Bray said.

“If the definition of college and career readiness is that students will not need remediation going into college, that means high school education will become focused on core academics,” she said. “But it has to include those employability skills. It has to include some of that technical skill.

“It’s not an either-or,” she continued. “We need to move away in this country from ‘either academic or career and technical education.’ ”

Glenn Cummings, the deputy assistant secretary who oversees career and technical education in the Department of Education, said its leadership views readiness for credit-bearing coursework as important in ending the “dead-end” approach to schooling that deemed some students college material and

others vocation-bound. But the department believes it is “crucial” for students also to have the employability and technical skills outlined in the ACTE’s definition, he said.

The ACTE discussed its vision with the two organizations that are leading the drafting of common academic standards for adoption by the states, Ms. Bray said. As a framework for learning, those standards would facilitate college readiness more than they would career readiness, she said. But she added that she is optimistic they will more fully “embrace” career-oriented skills and knowledge in the future. Last month, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium issued a “vision statement” urging policymakers and educators to see career and technical education as a challenging blend of academic and job-related skills.

Anthony P. Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said the ACTE’s definition is “a breath of fresh air” because the country has overemphasized academic preparation for nearly three decades.

Some studies have found a growing convergence between the skills needed for college and those needed for many entry-level jobs. Others, however, point to a large swath of jobs that do not demand the types of skills policymakers increasingly call for.

“We decided everybody needed better academic skills, and that was right, but in committing the nation to a single idea, we got single-minded, and one of the casualties has been [career and technical education],” said Mr. Carnevale. “At some point, you have to put a professional or occupational point on your pencil.”

A version of this article appeared in the April 21, 2010 edition of Education Week as Advocates Press for New Definition of Career Readiness

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says Dual-Enrollment Programs Are Expanding. But Do They Reach the Students Who Need Them Most?
The programs may be failing to reach low-income and other underserved students.
5 min read
Image of two student desks.
yattaa/iStock/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Teenager Balances Family Care, Work, and Credit Recovery on a Path to Graduation
Remote learning didn't start Gerilyn Rodriguez's academic problems, but it accelerated them.
3 min read
Gerilyn Rodriguez, 18, poses at Miami Carol City Park in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Aug. 19, 2022. After struggling with remote learning during the pandemic and dropping out of school, Rodriguez is now a student at Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies.
Gerilyn Rodriguez, 18, struggled with remote learning during the pandemic and dropped out of high school. A "graduation advocate" persuaded her to enroll in Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies in Miami, Fla.
Josh Ritchie for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness What It Took to Get This Teenager Back on Track to Graduate
Nakaya Domina had been disengaging from school for years before she left Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas in 2019.
3 min read
Nakaya Domina pictured at her home in Las Vegas, Nev., on Aug. 12, 2022. After dropping out of school during the pandemic, she returned to a credit recovery program, where her "graduation candidate advocate" has helped her stay engaged. She expects to graduate this summer, and will then enter a postsecondary program in digital marketing.
Nakaya Domina dropped out of her public high school in Las Vegas in 2019 but managed to graduate this year with the help of a "graduation advocate" and a dropout recovery program.
Bridget Bennett for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Anxiety and Isolation Kept Him Out of School. How an Alternative Program Helped
After years of worsening anxiety that kept him from school, Blaine Franzel’s prospects for high school graduation are looking up.
3 min read
Blaine Franzel, 17, and his mother, Angel Franzel, pictured at their home in Stuart, Fla., on Aug. 15, 2022. After struggling during remote learning and dropping out of public school, Franzel is now thriving at an alternative school where he is learning about aviation.
Blaine Franzel, 17, and his mother, Angel Franzel, live in Stuart, Fla. After struggling during remote learning and dropping out of public school, Franzel is now thriving at an alternative school where he is learning about aviation.
Josh Ritchie for Education Week