New York State School Boards Association

Redefining Ready: How to focus on whole student, not just test scores

by Jeffrey Handelman

On Board Online • November 7, 2016

By Jeffrey Handelman
Deputy Director of Administration

How does your school district determine whether a student is ready for college or the workplace? While states have measures linked to tests, a national association of school superintendents has come up with its own set of benchmarks in an initiative called "Redefining Ready."

The chief evangelist of the Redefining Ready movement, David Schuler, delivered a passionate description of the approach to an enthusiastic audience at NYSSBA's 97th Annual Convention & Education Expo in Buffalo.

The superintendent of a Blue Ribbon school district in Illinois and former president of The School Superintendents Association (AASA), Schuler disputed statistics that purport to show America's high school students are poorly prepared for college and career success.

For instance, testing giant ACT reports that only 40 percent of its 1.9 million test takers are college ready (defined as meeting three or four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks). Those measures are too narrow, he said.

"Our students learn in a variety of ways," Schuler said. "They should be able to demonstrate readiness in a variety of ways."

To develop new metrics, AASA examined numerous well-respected studies that look at a variety of factors that correlate to success after high school. It launched "Redefining Ready" early this year to promote a multi-metric approach to assessing college- and career-readiness.

In developing its metric of what it means to be college and career ready, AASA considered research from leading research organizations, including Attendance Works, Harvard Graduate School of Education, the College Board, the Center for Public Education, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and American Institutes for Research.

One key indicator of future success that emerged: Successful completion of Algebra II in high school. Research shows that successful completion of challenging courses in high school is more predictive of college success than income or race.

Other Redefining Ready indicators include:

  • High school absenteeism rate less than 10 percent.
  • Dual enrollment participation (taking college level courses in high school).
  • Scoring three or higher on AP exams.
  • Participation in International Baccalaureate programs.
  • Participation in community service requirements.

Encouraging students to strive for these achievements gives school leaders a research-based strategy to boost students' long-term success.

AASA considers students to be college-ready if they have a grade point average as low as 2.8 (out of 4.0) and one of more of the following academic indicators:

  • Score at least a 3 on an AP exam.
  • Earn an A, B or C in an AP course.
  • Earn an A, B or C in a college-level English or math course.
  • Earn an A, B or C in a college development/remedial English or math course.
  • Earn an A, B or C in Algebra II.
  • Score at least a 4 on an International Baccalaureate exam.

The AASA metric also considers students to be college-ready if they meet certain standardized testing benchmarks. For more information, go to .

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