ACT Inc. just announced they are developing new assessments aimed at students between 3rd and 10th grade to test their college and career readiness skills. Many states are pushing for more students to leave school with the skills they need to succeed in college and career and ACT believes their new series, to be launched in 2014, will be the answer.
The New ACT College and Career Readiness Series
The new ACT college and career readiness series will largely be available in a digital format to offer students and teachers instant feedback, with the option to take a written test for schools that don’t have access to technology. Tests will include multiple-choice, open-response, and interactive questions that will be analyzed to learn more about students’ strengths and weaknesses.
States are right. Schools need to incorporate college and career readiness curricula in tandem with students’ academics to help them make an early connection between high school and college; an education and a career; and their strengths, interests and goals for the future. LifeBound books like Gifts and Talents, People Smarts, and Making the Most of High School encourage students from middle school to high school to search for their interests and passions so they can become more connected with their peers, their schoolwork, and themselves, as well as develop critical thinking skills and social and emotional intelligence. ACT wants to teach to the “whole” child, however, part of the self-discovery process that prepares students for college and career is in the doing, not the testing.
Beyond Testing: College and Career Readiness Takes Practice
Students can take assessments that help them evaluate what they are good at and the professions that align with their strengths. However, learning about a career and being ready for a career path are two different things. Last year, an unprecedented study found 45% of college students didn’t learn critical thinking skills over four years in college. Giving students another test to take, whether or not it’s directed at college and career readiness, will not exercise the critical thinking skills they need to be successful in their college or career years. So, while we applaud the need to have a greater emphasis on career exploration, we encourage the ACT and all who look thoughtfully at this issue to provide a more expansive way to look at self, options, and the people who can help students learn about themselves through the lens of experiences they have had through fields of study and actual workplace contributions.
Experiential learning is key for students to explore college and career interests, develop critical thinking skills to deal with real-world problems, and assess both their strengths and weaknesses. In college, “success” is defined by much more than what students know. Students are graded on what they know how to do. This learning happens by doing their coursework, getting an internship, making valuable connections, and becoming involved with people who can be of help in the discovery process. Professionals are also evaluated on what they know how to do, not just on what they know. This learning happens in the field and out of the classroom. It is where risk meet reward to create opportunity.
College and Career Success Is Not a Formula
Let’s help students early and often to develop critical thinking skills, self-awareness, a knowledge of strengths, weaknesses and interests and a curiosity that can help them to negotiate any unknown in their learning, professional or personal. Let’s use technology, reading, and advocacy groups which students can form themselves; role models who can guide and inspire; informed and aware teachers and counselors all of which provide the network students need to ignite genuine passion. That motivation can propel students in the most purposeful and effective way no matter what career they may decide to pursue.
Success is not a formula, but an awareness. Let’s promote awareness over yet another quick-fix recipe so that we can broadly, not narrowly, help students to understand themselves, their options, and the paths which make sense for them to pursue their goal. For the informed, self-directed and inspired student who is given the gift of space and time to consider these options, the career paths and opportunities are limitless.
“ACT to Roll Out Career and College Readiness Tests for 3rd-10th Grades” by Caralee Adams. 2 July 2012. Education Week. Accessed on 9 July. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/college_bound/2012/07/act_plans_to_roll_out_career_and_college_readiness_tests_for_3rd-10th_grades.html
“Study: Many college students not learning to think critically,” by Sara Rimer. 18 July 2012. The Hechinger Report. Accessed on 9 July 2012. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/01/18/106949/study-many-college-students-not.html#storylink=cpy