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College and Career Readiness

College and Career Readiness Letter

March 31, 2011

Dear Superintendents, Charter Leaders, and Other Interested Parties:

We are writing to update you on initiatives designed to promote the readiness of high school graduates for success in college and careers, as well as to promote the success of students in institutions of higher education and in careers. This is an active agenda that incorporates strategies that are being promoted by the elementary and secondary school sector, the higher education sector and, in many cases, jointly by both sectors. It is critical that you remain connected to these efforts to ensure that they serve the purposes for which they are designed - to promote the success of individual students in your district as well as to secure the economic vitality of the Commonwealth. We are committed to ensuring that policies and programs across the two sectors collectively support the success of our elementary, secondary, and higher education institutions.

At the K-12 level, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has moved steadily toward a focus on college and career readiness. For example, the Board adopted MassCore as the recommended rigorous high school program of study that prepares all students for postsecondary success. Additionally, the implementation of the Education Proficiency Plan was developed to diminish the chance that students, parents, and schools are satisfied with "needs improvement" (which predicts a high likelihood that a student will be placed in a developmental class in higher education) while increasing attention to "proficiency," which correlates to a high placement rate in credit-bearing classes in college. More recently, our Race to the Top plan is designed to ensure that students are ready for success at the next level. For high school graduates, this means readiness for college level work or for a career path. At the same time, the Commonwealth's new curriculum frameworks in English Language Arts and Mathematics pay deliberate attention to backmapping from college and career expectations.

At the post-secondary level, the Board of Higher Education has adopted goals related to increasing college participation and completion; ensuring that degree and certificate programs are aligned with workforce needs; and eliminating disparities based on race/ethnicity, income background, and gender. The initiative, which is called "The Vision Project," identifies focal areas, planning groups, deliverables, and metrics to promote and track progress toward the goals areas. Moving forward with the state's Vision Project agenda to improve college readiness and college graduation rates, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted on March 22, 2011 to set a new standard for approving admissions policies at the state's four-year universities, one that will include four years of high school mathematics, beginning in fall 2016. The Board's plan mandates that admissions policies proposed by the Commonwealth's state universities and the University of Massachusetts include Algebra I and II and Geometry or Trigonometry or comparable coursework, and that at least one mathematics course be taken during the final year of high school - consistent with MassCore that was adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2007. In addition, the Board voted to add the science component of the MCAS as a standard for the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, effective with the high school graduating Class of 2016.

To help ensure that the college and career readiness agendas of both higher education and elementary/secondary are aligned and supportive of the efforts of schools and districts, we are convening a College Participation Advisory Group which includes membership from K-12 and higher education. The Group is charged with advising us and the two Boards on the development, communication, and implementation of statewide college readiness and college participation goals, objectives, strategic initiatives, and policies that intersect both the K-12 and higher education sectors. These include recommendations regarding:

  • definition and communication of college readiness;
  • alignment of high school graduation and college entrance requirements;
  • advancement of college connected activities along the pre-postsecondary continuum;
  • implementation of new higher education admissions standards; and
  • raising college participation rates among targeted population subgroups.

We hope that this letter provides you with an orientation to the work to which we have jointly committed. Our goal is to support the success of each and every student in Massachusetts, and thus the vitality of the Commonwealth. For elementary and secondary students, this means ensuring that they are prepared for success after high school. For students enrolled in higher education institutions, this means completing college and earning degrees and credentials that address workforce needs For the work that you do in leading our K-12 institutions, this means supporting your efforts to deliver a world-class education to all students.


Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education

Richard M. Freeland, Ph.D.
Commissioner of Higher Education



College Participation Advisory Group

  1. Heather Ayres, Senior Educational Manager, K-12, The College Board, New England Regional Office
  2. Beth Axelson, Dean of Admissions, Worcester State University
  3. Dana Brown, Principal, Malden High School
  4. Jenny Curtin, Coordinator of High School Graduation Initiatives, Office of College and Career Readiness, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  5. Nyal Fuentes, Educational Specialist, Office of College and Career Readiness, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  6. Rhonda Gabovitch, Dean of Institutional Research, Bristol Community College
  7. Pati Gregson, Vice President of Access and Transition, Mount Wachusett Community College
  8. David Papagini, Superintendent-Director, Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School
  9. Beth Peabody, Senior Policy Analyst, Executive Office of Education
  10. 1Dorothy Presser, President, Massachusetts Association of School Committees and Chair, Lynnfield School Committee
  11. Patricia Plummer, Senior Advisor, University of Massachusetts President's Office
  12. Denise Richardello, Vice President of Enrollment, Mass College of Liberal Arts
  13. Carolyn Richards, President, Massachusetts School Counselors Association, Supervisor of Guidance, Somerville High School
  14. William Rigney, Chair, Science Department, Marlboro High School
  15. Dawn Tamarkin, Professor and Chair, Department of Biology, Springfield Technical Community College
  16. Thomas Taylor, Dean of Enrollment and Student Success, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Aundrea Kelley, Deputy Commissioner for P-16 Policy and Collaborative Initiatives, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, will serve as convener.

Last Updated: April 13, 2011
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