It might seem funny using a French phrase in the title on a piece on college and career readiness, but the phrase means “reason or justification for existence.” That is just what college and career readiness is for our schools and district. If we are not giving every student the opportunity and instilling the motivation to be prepared for the adult world, we are not doing our job. I already can hear those who object saying, “Some kids just will not do it. They don’t value education, their parents don’t care, they don’t have running water; how can we get them ready for college?” The only answer is that we must – “those” kids need it more than all the others.
Only about 30% of our recent graduates are defined as being college or career ready. That sounds very bad, but I’ll point out that if the statistics were available, I would bet my life that they are better now than they have ever been in the past. That being said, the goal is 100% and it can be done over time if we all work together. There are two sides to college and career readiness. We would like all our students to be ready for either or both, but our district is requiring at least one to be a graduate of Bullitt County Schools starting with this year’s freshman class. Below I will explain each one.
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and Council for Post-Secondary Education (CPE) have worked together to very simply define college readiness as having an ACT score of 18 in English, 19 in mathematics, and 20 in reading by graduation. This is the minimum, but if a student has these scores, he or she will be able to enroll in credit bearing college courses at any state college or university and will be able to avoid remedial classes that cost the same as credit classes, but do not count toward a degree. Almost any student without a severe learning disability who works hard and behaves in a relatively responsible manner can meet this benchmark. With only 9.2% of Bullitt County’s population aged 25 and over holding a bachelor’s degree – well below the national average and the percent in our neighboring counties – we definitely need more of our graduates to bring home college degrees in order to be competitive. There are many, many well-paying, useful, and satisfying careers that do not require a college degree and each individual should have the freedom to choose their own path in life, but the path to college should be one that is available should a graduate want to go that direction.
All students take the ACT during the spring of their 11th grade year. If they don’t make the standard, they can take it again as many times as they wish, right up until graduation time. Our high schools are working hard to provide opportunities for students to get extra help to become better prepared for this test. The preparation can’t start in high school though; it has to start in kindergarten and we must keep college expectations in front of our students’ faces all the time. So much of it is expectations, and if parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, friends and relatives all team up with the expectation that college is a real option, students will live up to it.
This is a little more complicated. To be certified as career-ready, a prospective graduate must meet two criteria, one academic and one in an industry certification. The academic component will be based on scoring a 55 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (part of the ASVAB test given annually in our high schools in cooperation with the military services) or having a ranking of 4 or higher on the ACT Work Keys assessment in the areas of Reading for Information, Applied Math, and Locating for Information. A student has to meet one or the other to be ½ career ready. The other half is the industry certificate. There are many certificates available, such as Agribusiness, Microsoft Office Specialist, Internet and Computing Core, Welding, and Automotive Technology, just to name a few. To pass these assessments and receive the certificate, our schools have developed a sequence of elective courses to prepare for the exams, which are not easy to pass. As an example, a student who wants to be career ready will meet the state core requirements for academic courses, plus get a Work Keys or AFQT qualifying score, plus pass an industry certificate test. You can see that this is going to represent quite an accomplishment and this graduate will be ready to walk into a well-paying, career position where they can support the family of which they will likely someday be a part.
Every student starting with this year’s freshman class, aside from a few with extremely special learning needs, will be REQUIRED to meet one of the above in order to receive a diploma from any Bullitt County school. Your Board of Education is serious about raising the level of student achievement in this county, and our teachers and administrators are working hard to provide what the students need to meet the standard. Add to that the expectations and assistance of our parents and community, there is no reason our students cannot make the grade.
You can find links to information about the ACT, Work Keys, the ASVAB, Council for Post-Secondary Education, and a list of acceptable career certificates (we cannot offer them all) on my web page at http://blogs.bullittschools.org/keithdavis. It will be on the left side of the page. You can also contact any of our principals or guidance counselors for more information and ways you can help.