A diverse group of students in front of a laptop in a classroom.
Studies show students with a college education report they are happier, healthier and enjoy a higher quality of life than students with a high school education or less. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Office of Education.

Preparation for college and a career is important to economic prosperity. How college and career readiness in schools is defined varies across the state.

The College/Career Indicator, adopted by the State Board of Education, integrates eight pathways that demonstrate a student’s preparedness for college and a career. College eligibility, such as SAT participation and A-G coursework performance, is used across California as a critical metric for defining college readiness. Other important measures of college preparedness include high school GPA and standardized assessments that predict college outcomes. According to many educators, college enrollment is a key measure of college readiness.

Major reforms in California were implemented in the last decade to improve outcomes for all students. Policy Analysis for California Education’s primer on K-12 education details the curricular improvements made in 2010 when the Common Core State Standards were adopted and the Smarter Balanced Assessments were implemented in 2014-15. Earlier reform occurred in 2013-14 when the Local Control Funding Formula and Local Control Accountability Plans were implemented, aligning school funding and accountability mechanisms to local needs to support student educational outcomes.

Most recently, the California School Dashboard was launched in 2017, offering multiple measures of school quality in college preparation for high schools.

The California School Dashboard’s College/Career Indicator (CCI) looks at how well local educational agencies and high schools are preparing students for likely success after graduation, whether in college or career. The CCI indicator was designed to encourage schools to provide students with a rigorous and broad course of study that prepares students for post-secondary success.

Within the CCI measure, graduates are classified as prepared, approaching prepared or not prepared. High school graduates must meet at least one criterion within the “prepared” level for schools and local educational agencies to demonstrate success on this state measure. The CCI displays performance using one of five status levels that range between very low, low, medium, high and very high.

On Feb. 13, the East Side Education Foundation held a forum, entitled “Is College Necessary?” Studies show students with a college education report they are happier, healthier and enjoy a higher quality of life than students with a high school education or less. The Public Policy Institute of California states that college graduates earn higher wages, obtain higher quality jobs and are better insulated during recessions.

With the COVID disruption to collected data, the 2020-21 school year reported more than 19,000 Santa Clara County students completing high school. More than 15,000 Santa Clara County high school completers were enrolled in college. The college-going rate in Santa Clara County was more than 77% while the state reported 62%.

Programs like Spartan East Side Promise at San Jose State University exist to support students and their families, specifically from East Side Union High School District, from the time of college exploration through college graduation. For information on eligible high schools or information on how the program works, visit San Jose State University’s webpage.

Opportunities for post-secondary education are diverse, whether it be trade school, community college  or university. Career technical education, such as offerings by the local Metropolitan Education District, exposes high school students to a variety of career pathways, many of which require a more nontraditional post-high school education, such as certificate programs.

Additional information on Santa Clara County Office of Education’s College & Career Month and other college and career pathway resources to support students in being future-ready can be found here.

San José Spotlight columnist Mary Ann Dewan is the superintendent of schools for Santa Clara County. She has more than 33 years of experience in the field of education. Her columns appear every third Monday of the month.

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