ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership Preview: Second General Session with David Conley


ASCD’s Conference on Educational Leadership is right around the corner and we are here to provide you with a sneak peek into the conference schedule. The conference promises to give school leaders like you new ideas for your leadership knowledge base, help you focus on what matters most in leadership, and connect you with global educational leaders. Stay tuned here on Inservice each week for more insight on what is to come at the ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership.

College and Career Readiness: Where to from Here?

By David Conley, professor at the University of Oregon, CEO/CSO at the Educational Policy Improvement Center

The arrival of our first grandchild a year and a half ago sparked an ongoing conversation in our family about what it will mean for her to be college and career ready. Admittedly, this may not be a topic that all new parents and grandparents discuss. However, it is important to consider looming changes in education, even if it is impossible to know for certain how events will unfold over the next 18 years. Some questions of importance include the following: David Conley on college and career readiness

  • How will college education look different?
  • Will the Common Core State Standards still exist?
  • Will the consortia assessments be important?
  • Will students be judged more on their subject matter competency than on seat time as measured by Carnegie units?
  • Will online learning be the norm and classroom-based instruction the exception?

These and many other issues stand as major unknowns for the future of college and career readiness. The one certainty is that education will look very different than it does now in both the secondary and postsecondary arenas. My current definition of college and career readiness is built around students being able to succeed in credit-bearing, entry-level college courses without the need for remediation, particularly in their area of interest. It is a definition that does not take into account institutional variation in the nature and challenge level of entry-level courses or in the range of potential student interests. However, this definition is useful because it expresses well the need for alignment between high school preparation programs and college expectations. It does not, though, go so far as to suggest that students need dramatically different knowledge and skill sets for each of the thousands of programs of study available in the nearly 4,000 postsecondary institutions in the United States.

It does mean that readiness can be better defined and assessed and then aligned with college and program types. Research on college readiness is beginning to provide much more detailed profiles and descriptions of readiness at the level of programs of study. These findings can be used to better determine where individual students stand in relation to their aspirations and the expectations they will face in college and job training programs. As this line of research continues to mature, students will be able to think of readiness in terms of four or five levels of knowledge and skill cross-referenced against a dozen or more pathways that comprise groups of occupations, careers, or college majors. While this model requires significantly more information than a single score on an admissions test or state exam or a grade point average currently provides, its effects will be powerful and will help to increase first-year college success rates and speed time to degree completion. Doing so will reduce student debt, a key goal in the immediate future, and will also allow postsecondary programs to be held more accountable for the decisions they make to admit students and how they provide support to those they admit.

I look forward to discussing these issues at the upcoming Conference on Educational Leadership on November 2 in Las Vegas, Nev.

conley_headshot_2David T. Conley is professor of educational policy and leadership and founder and director of the Center for Educational Policy Research (CEPR) at the University of Oregon. He is also the founder, chief executive officer, and chief strategy officer of the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) and the president of CCR Consulting Group, both in Eugene and Portland, Oregon. Through these organizations, Dr. Conley conducts research on a range of topics related to college readiness and other key policy issues with funding provided by grants and contracts from a range of national organizations, states, school districts and school networks. His line of inquiry focuses on what it takes for students to succeed in postsecondary education. His latest publication Getting Ready for College, Careers and the Common Core will be released in Fall 2013, and his previous books on these topics include College and Career Ready: Helping All Students Succeed Beyond High School and College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready. He received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Before joining the University of Oregon faculty, he spent twenty years in public education as a teacher, building level and central office administrator, and state education department executive.  He has authored numerous journal articles, book chapters, and monographs. He serves on technical and advisory panels, including co-chairing the Common Core State Standards Validation Committee and as a member of the Smarter Balanced Technical Advisory Committee.