Preparing Students for College and Careers: Early Findings from the Implementation of Ready Now Yuma
With increasing demands on the 21st-century workforce, all students should graduate from high school prepared to enter college or start a career. Improving the skills required to succeed in college and a career is a major challenge in the United States. According to the nonprofit organization Achieve (2012), about 11 percent of freshmen entering two- and four-year postsecondary institutions require remediation in reading, 14 percent in writing, and 22 percent in math. Similarly, a recent national readiness report by American College Testing (ACT; 2013) showed that 28 percent of students who took the ACT college entrance examination failed to meet any of ACT’s four college readiness benchmarks while only 25 percent of graduates met all four of the benchmarks. These numbers are alarming when connected with 21st-century workforce reports that show technological changes and increased competition require a workforce with strong cognitive skills and problem-solving abilities (Karoly, 2007).
To address these challenges, Helios Education Foundation began to take steps to identify a new comprehensive, high school reform initiative focused on preparing students for college and careers. Beginning in 2010, Helios Education Foundation awarded the Center for the Future of Arizona a $450,000 grant to: (a) identify a district to demonstrate a whole-school reform model; and (b) collaborate with that district and Helios Education Foundation to develop an innovative, comprehensive, and sustainable initiative to prepare all students, especially those from low-income and minority backgrounds, for college and careers by the end of high school. This brief provides a short history of the development of policies and practices around college and career readiness, outlines the research and theory of action behind the Ready Now Yuma initiative, and highlights key findings around implementation roughly halfway through the five-year project.