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Policy Library

College and Career Pathways

We face seemingly contradictory goals in our high schools.

We need to increase the graduation rate. But at the same time we must increase academic rigor, making it harder to graduate.

Is it possible to do both?

We are seeing evidence it can be done in states like Florida, where the high school graduation rate is at an all-time high despite more rigorous graduation requirements (1). But these requirements still are inadequate and must be strengthened, creating bigger challenges ahead.

The current version of the high school diploma is woefully inadequate. Only a quarter of high school graduates in the US who took the ACT are fully prepared for college (2).

This is reflected in remediation rates. More than half of students entering two-year colleges and nearly 20 percent entering four-year universities are placed in remedial classes (3).

K-12 education obviously is not doing the job. Trying to make amends after the fact through remediation is expensive and often fruitless (4).

A high school diploma no longer can be considered an end unto itself. The requirements for a diploma must be coordinated with the requirements of colleges and employers, creating a seamless transition.

There are several strategies for accomplishing this.

One is the adoption of rigorous standards that chart a course for students to graduate from high school ready for college or a career. The Common Core State Standards set academic standards beginning in kindergarten, are benchmarked against the most rigorous international standards, create a structured path leading to college and prepare our graduates for the increasingly competitive global economy.

To learn more, please refer to the links below.


  1. Florida Department of Education, Graduation & Dropout Rates, 2013-2014
  2. Source: ACT, Condition of College & Career Readiness, 2014
  3. Complete College America, Remediation: Higher Education’s Bridge to Nowhere, 2012
  4. National Bureau of Economic Research, Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation, 2012