A strong consensus is developing among states, districts, and key stakeholders that the ultimate goal of K-12 education must be for all students not just to graduate from high school but to graduate with the requisite skills to succeed in completing a postsecondary credential and entering a career. This consensus is reflected in the state-led Common Core Standards Initiative. It also underlies and has been further advanced by unprecedented new federal education investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, particularly by the assurances required of states wishing to apply for Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation (i3) funds, and school improvement grants. Looking forward, ESEA reauthorization provides an opportunity to seize on steadily building momentum toward policies focused on what it will take to achieve the college- and career-ready goal.
The recommendations laid out in College and Career Ready Graduation focus on a related critical aspect of the emerging federal-state-district approach to K-12 improvement: The reauthorization of ESEA provides an opportunity to focus greater federal policy attention than ever before on secondary school improvement—and to strengthen incentives that encourage states and districts to help all high school-age students advance and succeed, particularly low-income students who are off track to graduate college- and career-ready and those who drop out without securing a meaningful diploma.
These recommendations pertain to the following issues:
- College- and career-ready standards and assessments
- Rigorous and fair graduation rate accountability
- Turning around low-performing secondary schools
- Incentives, innovation, and invention
The landmark 2002 No Child Left Behind reauthorization committed the federal government to a more central role in driving states and districts toward demonstrating measurable improvement in student achievement. The upcoming reauthorization provides an opportunity to build on the best aspects of current law and its federal-state-district partnership. It also introduces an opportunity to revisit provisions that have been less effective or have created unintended obstacles to achieving the goal of high achievement for all students, particularly students from low-income families, who have always been the focus of ESEA.