Hiking a nature trail is a great experience for exercise and enjoyment. When hiking familiar trails, we know the route and we can just enjoy the experience and not have to worry about getting lost or have need for a map. This comfortable experience of hiking can be compared to the conditions in many schools, where a culture of focusing on preparing students for the next grade level, hopefully moving on to college, is familiar territory for educators and we continue to exercise and enjoy the experience. However, when we introduce college AND career readiness to the equation, our comfortable hike takes on a very different experience and we uncomfortably find ourselves in uncharted territory. The area around us is different and we’re unsure of our destination. We are in desperate need of a map.
Finding our way in the world has become much easier and we have added a new term to our navigation vocabulary — GPS (Global Positioning System). Maps and compasses are old technology and today we have the added benefit of GPS. A GPS has the convenience of a well marked map, often in electronic form on a smart phone. But, it also has the exact positioning of where we are in relation to the trail, our environment and can automatically map out a route for us to find our destination. This convenient technology has made it much easier to find our way in a new neighborhood, or a new trail.
In schools, as we negotiate the new terrain of college AND career readiness, leaders often wish we had a similar GPS that would give us greater detail about the unfamiliar terrain, show us exactly where we are and automatically map our route to the destination. We are no where near a smartphone app that would give us a very clear indication of how to improve schools, but recently developed tools give us many of the elements of a GPS to map our way towards this important student goal of college and career readiness.
The Career Readiness Institute (CRI) hosted by the Successful Practices Network (SPN) has created a Career Readiness Self-Assessment. Building upon over a decade of cataloging the best practices in America’s most rapidly improving schools, SPN has developed a series of checklists which serve as the equivalent of a GPS to guide schools toward its destination of college and career readiness. This self-assessment includes a series of checklists which enable schools to more precisely identify where their school community is in relationship to this changing terrain. Since schools have a very comfortable experience in mapping their programs towards college readiness, these checklists primarily focus on career readiness. However, many aspects of school relate to both college and career readiness as partially overlapping goals and several checklists relate to both.
The checklists include school characteristics in three areas. First, Results encourages leadership teams to reflect on their overall student learning results and look beyond the minimum measures of state academic assessments. The checklists encourage schools to examine achievement in stretching students beyond the minimum and also including measures on student performances and developing Life/Career Abilities or “soft skills.” The second area of checklists focus on school Culture. Often the existing culture of the school either enables or hinders a school improvement or change initiative. Examining these current behaviors related to school culture gives leadership teams a more precise identification of aspects of culture that need to be changed over time. Finally, the third area of checklists focuses on Practices — those unique instructional planning, instruction and student support services that are necessary to develop career readiness.
The Career Readiness Self-Assessment is a powerful new resource to guide schools in their planning. You can learn more about the self-assessment by going to the Career Readiness Institute website or viewing this podcast overview . School leaders and staff should not feel overwhelmed when hiking through new territory of college and career readiness. There are tools and experience, equivalent of a GPS, that can guide us to this destination.