As an educator, I am keenly aware of the moral imperative we have to assist adolescents in the process of career and postsecondary awareness. With the cost of colleges and universities skyrocketing to averages above $25k-$30k per year, postsecondary institutions can be expensive places for self-exploration without the context of a plan.

Due to the rising college loan debt totaling more than $1trillion, many individuals have to delay major life events such as getting married, buying a house, and starting a family. How can we leverage the four-year planning process to maximize the efficiency of self-exploration and provide students with a path for success?

Many states are shifting the focus from standardized testing as the only benchmark for college readiness. New models are being embraced such as the Redefining Ready! initiative and framework which has been adopted by 17 states as their approved ESSA plan.

An impactful way to approach the four-year planning process with students and families is to provoke self-reflection with thoughtful questions. This same self-reflection strategy is effective for district leaders. Here are questions we have developed to support and structure the planning process in developing a Readiness Plan for all students.

What do we do to help students be college ready?

  • How do we support dual credit and early college initiatives to eliminate transition and remedial course burnout?
  • Can we eliminate elective courses in silos and realign the curriculum to have purposeful career cluster alignment?
  • Do we have programs and practices in place that provide opportunities for students to explore postsecondary options?
  • How do we engage postsecondary partners to provide more than early college credit? Can they provide early advising models or on-campus engagement that is personalized to your district?  

What do we do to help students be career ready?

  • How do we leverage proactive services and structure a multi-tiered system to support and encourage attendance greater than 90%?
  • Can we embed more advanced capstone courses to include workplace or experiential hands-on learning to foster career self-awareness?
  • Do we leverage community partners to establish a plethora of internship options? Students deeply involved in summer sports camps or afterschool curriculars may need creative options such as weekend internships or brief summer experiences.  

What do we do to help students to be life ready?

  • Can we embed courses with growth mindset at the forefront?  
  • How do we design courses to exercise crucial executive functioning skills that will serve students beyond the school walls?
  • Do we have a myriad of supported study hall or advisory options to assist in supporting holistic social-emotional learning skills?

Gone are the days when public education could function as an independent island. We must engage postsecondary partners, community partners, and the constituents we serve to provide a holistic educational experience beyond the common textbook. If we can leverage such partnerships in an intentional and purposeful way, the impact will be immeasurable.  Preparing students to be the proverbial “contributing global citizens” evolves mere text in the district mission statement to a true anthem of action.

Our passion at Intellispark is to bring understanding and knowledge to all stakeholders, and not just within the walls of the school. We are building Intellispark Pulse to engage the school, parents, and community in the success of every student.

Matthew Liberatore

Matthew Liberatore

Dr. Matt Liberatore, LCPC is the director of professional learning and student services for Township High School District 214, president-elect of the Illinois School Counselor Association, and senior advisor to Intellispark.