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How Much Do Career- and College-Readiness Overlap?

It's a hot topic now: It's no longer enough to just graduate from high school. Students have to be sure that their high school education actually prepares them for college or good jobs. (If you thought that was obvious, you were ahead of a lot of folks, who, um, didn't.)

It's popular to say everyone needs to be college- or career- ready. But the trick is, not everyone agrees on what that means. (We've written tons about this, but one recent overview is from our Diplomas Count report.)

Into that fray wades the Association for Career and Technical Education, which today released an official definition of what it considers career readiness. The ACTE's definition has three parts: a certain core of academic skills that all students need, regardless of whether they are going to college or straight into a job; employabilty skills such as adaptability and critical thinking that any young person needs for jobs or college; and "technical skills," which are more specific to the field a student is entering, or plans to enter.

This is interesting, given the rising arguments in recent years for state to beef up academic study in light of job-market changes that suggest a growing convergence of the skills needed for work and college. The folks at ACTE are trying to present what they see as a more complete picture of the skills needed for work. There is certainly an overlap, says ACTE Executive Director Jan Bray, but the skills sets are not identical. It's a call they hope will be heard by lawmakers on Capitol Hill as they reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and by those pushing for better, higher standards, be they state standards or common standards.

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