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How to Turn the 'College and Career Ready' Mantra into Reality

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You hear it daily -- the mantra "college and career ready." What you don't hear is consensus on "what" this looks like and "how" we are going to improve the state of play. Recent news from New York state student assessments confirm what many of us know --most high school graduates are not ready to perform college work.

Full disclosure here: we are nowhere close to achieving college and career readiness for each and every student in our New Tech schools. However, we are encouraged by data that shows we are making progress towards this audacious goal. Here's what we believe -- when the principles of Deeper Learning are emphasized, students are engaged and responsible for their learning and they thrive with the expectation that they can learn.

As my colleague Jim May (School Development Coach) wrote in this thought-provoking and empowering essay, "Thinking Big and Thinking Small", "College and career readiness means that every graduate of a New Tech school leaves aware, eligible and prepared to pursue post-secondary education or vocational training."

Achieving this audacious goal for all students is directly related to our own capacity as educators to learn and to:
· Adopt a growth mindset
· Engage in adaptive leadership
· Build and sustain learning organizations

These are three big topics. To do each topic justice I'm going to focus on adopting a growth mindset here. (Future blogs will address adaptive leadership, and building and sustaining a learning organization).

A 'fixed' mindset says that our abilities are set -- either you are or you are not smart, for example. We've all experienced this when we say or hear things such as "I'm not good in math," or "I can't draw." The fixed mindset says if we believe we can't do something, there is really no point in trying. As Jim writes, "A fixed mindset is the province of innate talent and limited potential. Thus, the fixed mindset limits learning and growth because it prompts us to avoid any sort of challenge that might reveal our own perceived lack of ability."

Alternatively, the growth mindset is the belief that our basic qualities are things we can cultivate through our own efforts. Instead of saying we're not good at music or math -- we understand that these are things where we can develop through intentional effort, study and practice. According to Jim, "The growth mindset makes you crave challenge and see failure as an opportunity for new learning and growth. Human capacity is more malleable than we ever dared dream -- our potential, individually and collectively, is alarmingly easy to undermine."

Eduardo Briceno is someone whose work in this area I greatly admire. Ed recently led a Growth Mindset session for educators at our summer conference. See his powerful Tedx Talk, The Power of Belief - Mindset and Success.

We have a role to play here as educators and parents, and that is to check our own attitudes and make sure we do not have a fixed mindset regarding what we believe our students are able to accomplish. Instead, we can convey a belief that potential is not something that is limited by birth or circumstance, but is something that can actually change with hard work and dedication.

Truly preparing young adults for success after high school is an ambitious goal. It is representative of an adaptive challenge -- we're all working on it, but no one has figured out how to reliably achieve this outcome for all students. Next blog, I'll explore the work of addressing adaptive challenges in support of truly changing student success.