Posted on 12/15/2015 at 09:19 AM by Liz Determan

Preparing the Whole Student for Life After High School


Research on college and career readiness has most typically focused on high school graduates transition to college.  The current effort is to determine what students need to know and be able to do to demonstrate readiness.  We are still caught up in determining this by test scores and academic GPA with class ranking.  The workplace, however, has more consistently measured readiness and employability by the competencies our graduates can demonstrate in areas of communication, technical skills, initiative and persistence.  ACT has joined this effort as evidenced by their most recent release of “products” to help measure where students are in the soft skill areas.


“To provide a more holistic and integrated picture of education and work readiness from kindergarten to career, ACT has created a framework of readiness that includes knowledge and skills organized into four broad domains:

  • Core academic skills in mathematics, science, and English language arts (ELA) based on an expanded, more granular definition of the skills and mapped to learning progressions from kindergarten through career (K–Career)
  • Cross-cutting capabilities, such as critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, and information and technology skills
  • Behavioral skills related to success in education and the workforce, such as dependability, working effectively with others, adapting, and managing stress

Education and career navigation skills related to education and career paths, including self- knowledge of abilities, values, likes, and dislikes; knowledge about majors and occupations; and a variety of skills related to education and career exploration, planning, and decision making” (Beyond Academics: A Holistic Framework for Enhancing Education and Workplace Success, Camara, O’Connor, Mattern, and Hanson, 2015 by ACT, pg. 2).

The issue around schools buying into these “activities” is that students completing these assessments only provide a type of indication of how the students are doing in these areas.  The school needs to consider how to incorporate these skills into the curriculum.  This can be done by having staff align not just their core content to the Iowa Core but also align, as part of their curriculum, the employability skills found in the 21st Century of the Iowa Core and the Universal Constructs.  This is difficult work but our schools need to engage in the conversations and invest in the time to incorporate these soft skills as part of our curriculum.

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