The national public-education theme of having high school graduates ready for college or career is a recurring one. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau most recently stated, “The goal is to have all students graduate “college- and/or career-ready.”
There are some practical educational law and policy applications that, if implemented, would facilitate those ends:
Test all high school students for both college and career readiness in both 10th and 12th grades.
Test college readiness with Compass (a college course placement test) or American College Testing Program's ACT (college entrance exam) and the Montana University System Writing Assessment for qualifying scores into college-level courses.
Assess career readiness with American College Testing Program's WorkKeys or other agreed-upon assessment. WorkKeys tests reading for information, locating information, and math applications related to career areas and jobs.
Assess soft skills, such as knowing workplace expectations, coming to work on time and having a customer service orientation.
Students with college-ready placement scores would earn college credit for subsequent high school courses by college level performance testing under public education funding.
High school or college courses would be taught by either high school or college instructors for credit based upon student assessment performance.
High school transcripts would cite the final achieved level of college and career readiness.
High school transcripts would show industry or professional job skills, training credentials and college credits earned.
Reports would be made public annually showing the number of sophomores and seniors (graduates) who tested workplace-ready and the number who tested college-ready from each high school.
Career or college readiness is a major function of public high schools. Enactment of public educational policy of this type would go a long way toward: 1) quality assessment, 2) transparency of student achievement reporting, and 3) increased accountability. Montana outcomes would be above national average. Montana could become a leader in high school effectiveness reporting for things that matter.
Much of what I am suggesting has already been done in other states. Other states have also successfully implemented extensive dual-credit systems. Montana's two-year colleges, now under the capable Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education leadership of Dr. John Cech, are actively exploring the programs and achievements of other states. There is great opportunity now for legislators and educational leaders desiring to improve public education's impact.
Even without legislation, Billings, having the largest public-school enrollment and the most diverse work force, has the opportunity for statewide leadership. Billings Public Schools could lead in making career and college readiness credentials a reality.
Woodrow Jensen is director of adult education for Billings Public Schools. However, this guest opinion expresses his personal views, not necessarily those of the school district.