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No Child Left Behind embraces 'college and career readiness'

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Another definition, suggested by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, is whatever skills are required to succeed in credit-bearing courses at the community-college level.

Shouldn't graduation from high school mean that students are ready for the next step?

Currently, between 30 and 40 percent of students enrolling in college require at least one remedial class. Such courses don't give credits, don't qualify for tuition aid, and contribute to America's abysmal college completion rate: About half of all students who start college never finish. In a survey that the standards-advocate group Achieve conducted several years ago, employers said that about 40 percent of the high school graduates they hired didn't have the skills to advance in their jobs.

Is there agreement on what the standards should be?

The Common Core standards are the ones with the most buy-in so far. They emphasize cognitive skills – such as the ability to analyze a text coherently; write clearly and logically; and demonstrate precise, strategic mathematical thinking – in addition to core subject knowledge.

Some educators say an even broader range of attributes is necessary to succeed in college.

Any true measurement of college readiness has to include self-management skills and knowledge about the culture of college – including how to choose and apply to the right one – as well as academic skills and content knowledge, says David Conley, director of the Center for Educational Policy Research at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

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