Use of the term “college and career readiness” abounds in the dialogue around PreK-12 policy reform. The widespread use of the term can, at least in part, be attributed to the Obama Administration’s 2010 Race to the Top (RTT) grant competitions, as well as the U.S. Department of Education’s 2011 requirements for states that chose to apply for waivers to obtain flexibility from the requirements of No Child Left Behind—the previous reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
In order to obtain a waiver, states were required to set more than NCLB’s original mandate to set “challenging academic standards”—states were explicitly required to adopt “college- and career-ready” standards. States could demonstrate their standards would prepare students for both college and careers in two different ways: they could either adopt standards that were “common to a significant number of states,” or have their standards “approved and certified by a state network of Institutions of Higher Education.” RTT criteria included similar language around adopting college- and career-ready standards.
Each state sets their own definition of college and career readiness, and from there, what standards and assessments align to their definition of readiness.