College-ready, career-ready or career- and college-ready : do education stakeholder perceptions create barriers to student engagement?
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The face and make-up of education has experienced an almost constant state of reformation resulting in progressive benchmarks from each transition: the establishment of national education goals (Vinovskis, 2009); increased federal policy on education and accountability (DeBray, 2006); No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation (Rebell & Wolff, 2009) and the National Governor's Association Common Core State Standards (Herian, 2011). As a result, there is debate as to whether the educational challenge of today is best summed up by the assurance that all students succeed in meeting college-ready, career-ready or career- and college-ready standards (Stone & Lewis, 2012; CORD & NASDCTEc, 2012; Scott & Sarkees-Wircenski, 2008). Little has changed in the perception that career-ready preparation was second-rate to college-ready preparation. According to Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski (2008), administrators, counselors and instructors have long supported career-ready preparation for those students who appeared unsuccessful in college preparatory courses. The rapid growth of vocational training centers in American schools (Scott & Sarkees-Wircenski, 2008) in conjunction with today's increased focus on academic rigor (DeBray, 2006; Herian, 2011; Rebell & Wolff, 2009; Vinovskis, 2009) challenge local school districts to once again reevaluate individual and corporate perceptions of career-ready educational programs. Cyclical financial support, as well as minimal collaboration by federal, state and local education agencies, has increased the pressure on secondary education to fill the needs of business and industry in producing graduates who are both career- and collegeready upon graduation from high school. Utilizing a social justice model, the researcher researched through the ethic of community to discern examined teacher perceptions of college-ready, career-ready and career- and college- ready education for a variety of internal education stakeholders. This research expanded awareness of the impact education stakeholder perceptions of collegeready, career- ready and career- and college-ready preparation have in encouraging and promoting student advancement toward college and career goals. Statistical significance would enhance conclusions drawn from the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data. When people are involved, however, seldom does it turn out that the answer is statistically clear. The present study shows that educators perceive there to be barriers to progress during secondary matriculation. It is not, however, clear that one's orientation toward a philosophy of college-ready, career-ready, or career- and college-ready gives the clearest answer as to why these barriers exist. The results indicate that educators do not have their heads stuck in the sand, promoting and supporting a single path to secondary matriculation. Respondents displayed a balance across the three categories. The language of the responses to openended inquiries lent support to the quantitative analysis of the data, presenting teachers as balanced in orientations toward the student and concerned for the progress of students toward reaching career and college or advanced training goals. The learning community has much to offer to prepare students for life after high school. Educators appear to be progressing toward instituting more rigorous opportunities for students to be ready for both college and a career. The results of the research offer hope that educator perceptions are changing and moving toward greater opportunities for students to leave high school college-ready, career-ready or career- and college-ready. Tapping into the commitment of educators to improve student achievement will assist students in attaining career goals and advance achievement in American schools.