Career Readiness Essential to Students' Postsecondary Success- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

Career Readiness Essential to Students' Postsecondary Success

Task Force calls for better integration of career readiness into students' K-12 education

MALDEN - A task force of the state's leading educators, employers, and academic and labor experts today called for a renewed focus on career readiness to better prepare students for success beyond high school and produce a more college and career ready workforce that will drive future growth in the Massachusetts economy.

To achieve this goal, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's task force on Integrating College and Career Readiness (ICCR) is recommending the creation of a comprehensive statewide system comprised of structured, aligned, and strategic partnerships to support students' "fluid movement" through elementary, secondary, and higher education into successful careers.

"The failure to integrate college and career readiness in our public schools is an immediate and growing crisis," said Board member and Year Up founder and CEO Gerald Chertavian, who chaired the task force. "Too often, teens can't find work, college students are underemployed, and businesses can't find individuals with the training, professionalism, and social skills necessary to fill entry-level positions. It's imperative that we act now to expand opportunities for all students to lead successful lives and to help Massachusetts's businesses grow."

"I want to thank Gerald Chertavian for his tremendous leadership in assembling an impressive group of stakeholders committed to this work," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "We need to do a better job of introducing students to multiple success pathways by exposing them – in middle and high school – to career options and work-based learning experiences, and by more tightly linking academic achievement with college and career readiness standards."

The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, among other researchers, has found that work in high school leads to lower dropout rates and lower rates of disconnection from school and work in early adulthood. Research also shows that teens who work or enroll in career exploration programs have higher test scores, better grades, lower dropout rates, better postsecondary enrollment rates, lower teen birth rates, and are less involved in the criminal justice system than their peers. Yet, less than 30 percent of high school students in Massachusetts are noted to have participated in any kind of structured career development opportunities, according to available data. Fewer teens today are employed outside of formal programs that ten years ago – just 31 percent of teens held jobs during an average month in 2010, down from more than 50 percent a decade earlier.

"Young adults become more inspired, engaged, and motivated when they are exposed to the workplace – and that has a direct impact on higher achievement," said Chertavian.

To ensure that every student graduates from high school ready to pursue the next steps on the way to a successful career or post-secondary education, the task force developed the following recommendations:

  • Incorporate Career Readiness into Massachusetts's Recommended Course of Study
  • Strengthen School, Employer, Higher Education, and Community Partnerships
  • Improve the Utilization of School Counselors in Deployment of Career Readiness Education
  • Incentivize Schools to Create and Demonstrate Comprehensive Career Readiness Strategies
  • Promote the Importance of College and Career Readiness for All Students
  • Explicitly Identify Personnel Responsible for Effectively Executing the Task Force Recommendations

Among the strategies articulated by the task force to achieve these goals are expanding the state's recommended course of study for high school students, MassCore, to include integrated career development experiences; developing career readiness standards and assessments that align to those standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels; establishing a group of 10-12 Employer Champions to lead statewide efforts around employer participation in programs that provide career readiness; supporting the development of six-year career plans for all students in grades 6-12; and creating new tools and resources for employers, parents, and other stakeholders to increase awareness and participation in career readiness programs and activities.

"Introducing students to career exploration and applied learning at an earlier age are critical motivation tools that will help our students persist through high school and onto success in post-secondary education and career," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "I thank all of the task force members for their partnership in this important work and look forward to our continued progress toward a more cohesive and effective college and career readiness system here in Massachusetts."

"It is important that a 21st Century college and career readiness system is not merely a reprisal of age-old tracking systems, but instead is connected to our state's economic prosperity in a competitive global economy," said Rep. Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and a task force member. "Students may become unengaged in academics because they fail to see a clear connection between their program of study and opportunities in the labor market. A more aligned and strategic college and career readiness system will be critical to not only supporting our students but also supporting our state's future economic success."

As part of its work, the task force assigned the following definition to career readiness: Career readiness means an individual has the requisite knowledge, skills and experiences in the academic, workplace readiness and personal/social domains to successfully navigate to completion an economically viable career pathway in a 21st century economy.

The task force's recommendations align with the Patrick-Murray Administration's efforts to address a growing "skills gap" in Massachusetts. Earlier this year, Governor Deval Patrick proposed a plan to unify the state's fifteen community colleges into a strengthened statewide system responsive to both local and statewide employer needs. This strengthened system, in coordination with vocational schools, career centers, businesses, and other public higher education institutions will ensure that students can get the skills they need for the jobs that are available now while providing students with a strong academic foundation so that they have the ability to meet emerging workforce needs as the economy continues to change. The Governor's Gateway Cities Education Agenda also focuses attention on the importance of early career education as a way to better connect what students are learning in the classroom to meaningful employment beyond school. Through these initiatives and others, the Administration is setting new expectations for college and career readiness that will align the Commonwealth's educational system with those of competitor nations around the world.

The 36-member ICCR task force was created by the Board in December 2011. At Tuesday's regular Board meeting, three task force members (Gary Gottlieb, President and CEO, Partners HealthCare; Sheila Harrity, Principal, Worcester Technical High School; and Dan O'Connell, President and CEO, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership) presented the group's findings and recommendations. The Board directed Commissioner Chester to review the recommendations and report back with his proposed next steps at a future meeting.

Members of the task force included:

  • Maura Banta, Chair, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (1)
  • Dennis Berkey, President, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Francis X. Callahan, Jr., President, Massachusetts Building Trades Council
  • Marybeth Campbell, Director of Education and Workforce Development, Executive Office of Education
  • Harneen Chernow, Director, 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund (1)
  • Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO, Year Up (1)
  • Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Donna Cupelo, New England Regional President, Verizon Communications
  • Conny Doty, Director, Office of Jobs and Community Services, City of Boston Mayor's Office
  • Mary Fifield, President, Bunker Hill Community College
  • Richard Freeland, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education
  • Carlos Garcia, Chief of Staff and Chief of Corporate Affairs, Sovereign Bank
  • Charles (Chad) Gifford, Former Chairman, Bank of America
  • Gary Gottlieb, President and CEO, Partners HealthCare
  • Katie Gray, Liaison to Elementary and Secondary Education, Massachusetts School Counselors Association
  • Patricia Gregson, Associate Commissioner, Vocational, Workforce and College Readiness Programming, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Paul Grogan, President, The Boston Foundation
  • Sheila Harrity, Principal, Worcester Technical High School
  • Lance Hartford, Executive Director, Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation
  • Nancy Hoffman, Vice President and Senior Advisor, Jobs for the Future (2)
  • Joseph (Jay) Hooley, Chairman, President and CEO, State Street Corporation
  • Wendell Knox, Former President and CEO and Current Board Member, Abt Associates
  • Rich Lapan, Professor, School of Education, University of Massachusetts – Amherst
  • Ivana Maya, Nursing Student, Simmons College: School of Nursing and Health Sciences
  • George Moriarty, Director, Massachusetts Department of Career Services
  • Linda Noonan, Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education
  • Dan O'Connell, President and CEO, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership
  • The Honorable Alice Peisch, Co-Chair, Joint Committee on Education, The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Paul Reville, Massachusetts Secretary of Education (1)(2)
  • Robert Schwartz, Professor of Practice and Academic Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Tom Scott, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
  • Beth Shevlin, Professional Development Specialist, Massachusetts Teachers Association
  • Neil Sullivan, Executive Director, Boston Private Industry Council
  • Andy Sum, Director, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University
  • William (Bill) Swanson, Chairman and CEO, Raytheon Company
  • Henry M. Thomas III, President and CEO, Urban League of Springfield, Inc. (2)

(1) Member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

(2) Member of the Board of Higher Education

The task force's report was available on the Department's website.

Last Updated: June 26, 2012

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