Rethinking what it means to be college and career ready

It’s easy to think of college and career readiness as simply graduating from high school, but we know there is so much more to it than the diploma alone. There are skills and experiences we want for children, so they are prepared for whatever path they choose.

There is essential content knowledge associated with being college and career ready. Students need the background knowledge to tackle the learning demands of any apprenticeship, certification program, two-year or four-year college course. And this might be where a traditional view of readiness ends.

Today, we also need to consider how to help students transition to their post-high school world by making goals, exploring career options, being aware of resources and financial aid opportunities for college and training programs, as well as how to apply for those programs, colleges and universities.

But all along as educators and parents, we are likely thinking about preparing our children to be lifelong learners with a strong understanding of themselves. We want our children to have the skills to advocate not only for themselves but for others and for causes that impact us all. We want our children engaged in issues that matter to them.

This requires a skill set beyond content knowledge alone and the scope of what a traditional view of the high school diploma implies. That change also requires us to think differently about what teachers need and what happens in the classroom. The work educators are doing to bring in authentic project-based learning, the lessons around social-emotional learning, the practice and feedback they provide around 21st Century skills are all steps toward a college and career readiness that aren’t found in a textbook. And it isn’t easy work.

When we think about the changing demands of our world and how that impacts the working environment, know that it must also impact how we think of our classroom environments. College and career readiness takes educators and parents who know that content is just a tool to showcase the skills and dispositions our students need to be ready for their futures.

Central Rivers Area Education Agency is working hard to partner with our local school districts to help all students be ready for a future beyond high school. Through professional learning for teachers and administrators, we want to shift the thinking about what learning can and should be like to prepare our students. Learn more at


Jen Sigrist DIRECTORYJen Sigrist is the Executive Director of Educational Services with Central Rivers Area Education Agency. She can be reached at Central Rivers AEA serves over 65,000 students in 18 counties of Iowa. To learn more, visit