Ready for College and Ready for Work: Same or Different?

ACT
2006

The American Diploma Project has asserted as much for years, but now we have proof: high school graduates need the same skills to succeed in the workplace as they do to succeed in higher education. That's the conclusion of this short study from ACT. It starts by identifying the reading and math skills needed to attain jobs that provide a decent wage-one large enough "to support a small family." Then the researchers compared the rigor of these reading and math skills to those identified by the regular ACT exam as determining college readiness (scores of 21 on reading and 22 on math, out of 36). Guess what? They are the same. For example, for college or for work, students need to be able to calculate the perimeters and areas of basic shapes, understand the main idea of a paragraph, and identify the appropriate definition of words with multiple meanings based on context. None of this is terribly surprising; these are, after all, just basic skills that any numerate and literate person can handle. And ACT is not nearly ambitious enough. Being able to read and do math is not all that matters on campus or in the economy, yet essential knowledge of history, literature, and science is not investigated here. Still, this is another blow to those educators who believe that students not destined for college can be held to lower standards or taught only "relevant" material, regardless of rigor. While teaching approaches can vary (and even rigorous career/tech can do the trick), the desired outcomes are largely the same. Expect to hear politicians of all stripes reference this study in years to come, as they continue the push for higher (and perhaps even national?) standards. You can read the report here.

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