By Evan Nisonson
A staggering one-in-three high school graduates who took the ACT tests in 2013 are not ready for college, the testing organization has said in a recent report. Of the 1.8 million high school graduates who took the test last year, only 26 percent achieved college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects of English, reading, math and science. Another 27 percent met two or three benchmarks, and 16 percent met just one.
This is a significant challenge to the expectations of policy makers, educators, parents and students themselves who look to our educational systems to better prepare the youth of today into the skilled workforce of the future. To be clear, the number of unprepared, or even under-prepared, college freshman can impact states even today through a rise in unemployment and a decrease in the number of much-needed skilled workers. We must do better.
One part of a solution is to arm our teachers with better tools, such as digital content, that would lead to a more personalized and more impactful curricula for students. The other is harnessing the multitude of data generated in education to establish linkages between K-12, postsecondary, and workforce partners.
The latter part of the solution is what the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) has chosen to deploy to better prepare their students for college and careers. The aim of the project is to facilitate collaboration between educators, parents, and students to develop academic, financial, and future career plans that align with student aspirations.
To do it, they’ll leverage a statewide longitudinal data warehouse through which educators and district and school administrators will be able to inform policy decision makers, track student success, empower personalized instruction and influence college and career outcomes.
This new system will provide Montana high school districts two methods of transporting high school transcript data to the OPI through new data collection tools provided by IBM and ConnectEDU. Information collected from the solution will be used to inform policy decision makers at the state level, support college and career planning, and facilitate the transition for K12 students to college.
Although this process will be voluntary for all school districts, we hope that providing transcripts for free for all interested Montana students to the Montana University System will be incentive to participate, while also enhancing the State’s ability to assess college and career readiness.
OPI recognizes that deploying this solution not only targets results, but can serve as a catalyst for greater collaboration across every stage of a student’s educational experience allowing all participants in a student’s individual success – teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents – to better work together to prepare students for college and career.
Collaboration amongst K-12, Higher Education and workforce is a must, and technology is one answer to link these separate contexts to one central purpose. We applaud Montana’s forward thinking in addressing the significance of college and career readiness, and we look forward to collaborating with them and their partners in supporting students’ growth and preparation for opportunities beyond the educational institution, benefitting the learner, the educator, and the nation at large.