Press Release: Are Illinois high school graduates ready for college and careers?

by Heather L. Fox / Sep 26, 2013

Three reports highlight the urgent need for Illinois high schools to embrace equity conscious leadership and rigorous graduation requirements

(CHAMPAIGN, Ill.) –  Three new reports show that in an era of increasing globalization, it is essential for the United States to maintain a highly skilled workforce in order to remain economically competitive with other nations.

According to the reports, as the rigor increases in high schools across the nation, it is essential that Illinois policymakers and educators ensure that Illinois students graduating from high school are ready for college and careers.

“Although the state of Illinois has been making steady progress over the past few years, only 25% of Illinois public school juniors currently meet ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in all four tested subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Reading,” said Dr. Donald Hackmann, one of the authors on two of the reports and Pathways Resource Center director.

“Additionally, achievement gaps on these benchmarks continue, with White and Asian student subgroups consistently outperforming African American and low-income students.”

The “readiness” mantra is also a premier focus in educational policy at the federal level.  During President Obama’s administration, the U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 Blueprint for Reform set one clear goal: “by 2020 the United States will lead the world in college completion and every student graduates from high school well prepared for college and career.”

In the report, “Facing Equity: Understanding P-20 Equity Conscious Leadership for College and Career Pathways,” authors Anjalé D. Welton and Priya G. La Londe found that striving to ensure that “every student graduates” requires equity conscious leadership under which “P-20 leaders in Illinois must forge conversations and collaborations regarding the policy issues, agendas and social cultural changes that are upon us because equity is fundamentally at stake.”

“Thus, the onus is on both secondary and postsecondary leaders to prepare all young people, especially those from marginalized groups, for the responsibilities of adulthood,” according to Welton and La Londe in the “Facing Equity” report.

The “Facing Equity” report is one of three reports released by the Pathways Resource Center that highlight the importance of equity-driven policies that promote rigorous, relevant curriculum and corresponding graduation requirements. The other reports are “Promoting College and Career Readiness: Recommendations for Illinois High Schools” and “National Trends in High School Graduation Requirements and Diploma Options: Considerations for Policy and Practice in Illinois.” The reports provide policy makers and educators’ critical resources and recommendations for improving career and college readiness for Illinois graduates.

These reports, which Hackmann describes as “intended to provide information and practical strategies to Illinois educators—particularly those in high schools—as they strive to improve the rigor and relevance of the high school curriculum,” are available on both the Pathways Resource Center and the Office of Community College Research and Leadership website.

Illinois Pathways, funded through Race to the Top, is a new and innovative State of Illinois-led STEM education initiative designed to support college and career readiness for all students. Through a partnership between the State of Illinois’ education and economic development agencies, Illinois Pathways, through the Pathways Resource Center, supports local programs that empower students to explore their academic and career interests through the development of programs of study building off of previous work with the Illinois State Board of Education through Perkins funding.