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The Greatest Predictor of College and Career Readiness

Jordan Catapano

Are we teachers truly preparing our students for college and life beyond academia?

With the loads of research, data, standards, politics, assessments, and endless barrage of information at our disposal, it can feel like we are fishermen given a net that’s too big to actually use for catching fish. As we make broad sweeps and speculations, the details of what we should be focusing on slip through the netting.

One example: a May 2013 Pearson bulletin lists SAT and ACT scores, AP exam scores, core curriculum, course rigor, course grades/GPA, behavior, motivation and contextual knowledge as the key late secondary indicators of future success.

But as we know, these are extremely broad and difficult-to-measure indicators. While it’s great to identify these categories, we could have come up with them ourselves, and not get any actual information on how to better prepare students.

So wouldn’t it be great to be able to put our finger on one attribute of student behavior and say, “Aha! That’s just what we’re looking for!”

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Well, we can. What is the single greatest reliable predictor of post-secondary success? Isn’t it funny that we don’t know? In one sense, this should be the essence around which we based our structure of educational progress from early grades up. However, we’re not all aware of what exactly this indicator is.

This is it: Students should be able to read a complex text independently with comfort.

Now you’re thinking, “I knew that!” It seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? Except that when we look at all we do, we might recognize that much of our educational efforts are not oriented toward this goal.

But it makes sense, doesn’t it? If an individual can read a complex text on his or her own with comfort, this means that he or she now holds the keys to independently pursuing any information he or she needs for achieving success.

This implies that building knowledge and reading skills in the early grades is essential. Instead of spending more time merely turning elementary students on to literature, what they need is a firmly balanced approach between literary and non-literary texts. Building knowledge in early grades and progressing it through middle and secondary grades is essential for laying an effective foundation for accessing complex texts.

Ultimately, what the fact that independently accessing a complex text is the best predictor of college and career readiness means is that all teachers are reading teachers. History standards tend to focus on history; science standards focus on science; Spanish standards focus on Spanish.

But we cannot remain slaves to content and call ourselves effective teachers.

If instead we use all areas of academics to prepare students for independence rather than pure knowledge, we will see that their independence leads to students growing up and obtaining the pure knowledge on their own that they need for success. By becoming reading teachers, we will be achieving this.