College and Career Readiness

It’s imperative that students have the skills and knowledge to thrive after high school.

Why This Matters for MN Students

Every Minnesota student should leave our K-12 system with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and forge the path to a rewarding career. Unfortunately, we aren’t living up to this ideal. For too many students—particularly those from historically underserved backgrounds—we are falling short. 

Gaps in critical opportunities, supports, and resources start early and persist into high school, where too many students of color, low-income learners, English Learners, and students with disabilities miss out on rigorous courses that could help lay the groundwork for college and career readiness. From Advanced Placement and honors to concurrent enrollment and postsecondary enrollment options (PSEO), students who have access and support to succeed in more rigorous courses are more likely to graduate from high school on time, enroll in college, graduate within six years, and are less likely to take remedial courses in college.

Policy Solutions

There are concrete steps state leaders can take to support the potential of each and every student, from ensuring a strong literacy foundation in the early grades, to removing inequitable barriers to rigorous high-school coursework. The following next steps can help move the needle:

  • Improve systems to track and support student success. Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce system requires schools to develop a strategic plan around student success goals, then report progress over time. We can make this system stronger by adding a 9th-grade on-track indicator—an evidence-based practice that can help ensure early identification and intervention of students who need additional support—and better disaggregating reported data to clearly identify gaps.
  • Support equitable rigorous coursework enrollment practices
    • Across the country, states are starting to adopt automatic enrollment policies that opt students into rigorous coursework, helping identify students who may otherwise be overlooked. This is a clear step Minnesota can take to reduce disparities in who takes courses that give students a jump-start on college-level work.
    • Minnesota can increase access to PSEO by ensuring students have effective support and making families aware of financial benefits.
    • Policymakers should prioritize state investments that support access to rigorous coursework.
  • Ensure all students complete the FAFSA. Most students and families have college aspirations, but many face financial barriers and aren’t aware of the financial support they may qualify for. By requiring schools to support all students in completing the FAFSA, Minnesota can help students identify resources that open doors.
  • Prioritize effective literacy instruction in the early grades. Literacy unlocks all areas of learning, including math, science, and the arts—so when kids can’t read, they can’t fulfill their potential. There’s a growing recognition that, too often, literacy instruction is not aligned to what we know about the science of reading. Supporting teachers, particularly in the early grades, can help improve literacy across the state and address gaps that emerge at the foundation of our K-12 system. This should include expanded access to training for K-3 teachers, better state support around literacy instruction for schools identified for improvement under state and federal accountability systems, and ensuring state standards and statutes are aligned to best practices.

In addition to the priorities above, our “Closing the Rigorous Coursework Gap” reports layout more than a dozen actionable recommendations related to everything from teacher prep to student support.