May 2013 Issue
May 15, 2013

Expanding the definition of college and career ready

Author: By Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT United

As education policymakers place increasing emphasis on the idea that an education must help students become "college and career ready," NYSUT members are challenging assumptions and offering a broader, more comprehensive definition.

"An education means more than acquiring a set of skills that can be quantified with a test, a score and a percentile ranking," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, who oversees higher education policy for the union. "We recognize the need to measure students' progress. But at the same time, we know that an education must also prepare students to be engaged and responsible members of their communities and the world around them."

With that goal in mind, NYSUT's Teacher/School Leader Preparation Workgroup has submitted to State Education Commissioner John King a statement on college and career readiness that urges educational and political leaders to expand on this framework in several ways, one being to include civic readiness.

"The constricted definitions of 'college and career readiness' have resulted in a narrowing of what should be a robust vision of the curriculum," the workgroup's statement reads in part. "Subjects such as history, civics, science, physical education and the arts have been sidelined. The development of character and emotional intelligence has been slighted. Attention to the complexity of living in a heterogeneous society with complicated racial and ethnic histories has nearly disappeared."

The workgroup recommends that an education includes a number of specific opportunities, including but not limited to:

  • developing creative problem-solving, critical thinking and experimental thinking;
  • engaging in activities needed for democratic citizenship, including public service and advocacy roles; and
  • studying ethics and engaging in ethically informed behavior.

"As practitioners reflect on what an education should provide, they are becoming increasingly concerned that the concept of 'college and career ready' as it is used today is too limiting," Neira said.

"We are hearing from our own practitioners a clear concern that the short-sighted reliance on standardized tests to define and determine college and career readiness ignores important aspects of both goals, and shortchanges students."

Neira noted the contributions of NYSUT members in the development of the important statement. She cited the work of City University of New York professors and Professional Staff Congress members Gretchen Johnson of City College, and Peter Taubman of Brooklyn College; and Jamie Dangler, vice president for academics at United University Professions, the NYSUT local that represents academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York.