5 ways to evaluate whether your CCR program is doing its job to actually prepare students for future success.

Wondering how to make an even brighter year ahead?

One area that requires special attention from district leadership is strategies for career and college readiness (CCR). More and more, we’re learning that students are coming up short when it comes to post-secondary persistence, 21st-century skills, and preparedness to enter the workforce. CCR programs are critical to help students of all ages identify their strengths, challenges, passions, and preferences. This self-knowledge allows them to imagine and work toward their version of a meaningful future.

It’s valuable to assess the effectiveness of your CCR program regularly. You’ll want to ensure it’s keeping up with the expectations of students and the current world-of-work. How well is your program helping schools accomplish their goal of meeting ESSA mandates, achieving better engagement and achievement, reducing absenteeism, and empowering kids to take responsibility for their own learning and planning?

The complicated part is that real effectiveness is often only seen after students leave high school and pursue post-secondary success. However, there are some key indicators that will allow you to evaluate your district’s CCR program—and identify how you can make it even stronger come September.


Student Engagement

Online CCR programs provide the benefit of data to assess how and when students are accessing them. They even offer insight into where the logins take place. For example, among Xello users, 20% of logins occur outside of school hours. This is important information that helps districts evaluate student engagement. (Students who are willing to log in outside of class time demonstrate more engagement in planning for their future.)

If large numbers of students aren’t using the program, it’s clear that they aren’t doing the work required to prepare for college and career success. Another metric to consider is whether overall engagement in schools is on the rise or in decline. This will help provide context and a bigger-picture view.

To learn more about the benefits and challenges of your CCR program, ask students for their feedback. How does it stack up against other programs they’ve seen or used before? What are a few things they’ve discovered in the program that led them to an insight about their future? Do they feel prepared for the “real” world?

For the 2019-20 School Year:

  • Assess whether your CCR program is relevant and interesting enough to capture students’ attention.
  • Get student feedback with a quick survey to capture their feelings and attitudes about your current program.
  • Demo or pilot other CCR programs to evaluate how they address student engagement.
  • Evaluate overall engagement, including attendance, graduation rates, and test scores.

Student Achievement

When conducting your evaluation, it’s important to look beyond typical markers of achievement. The process of achieving long-term success doesn’t always leave an obvious trail of breadcrumbs.

One powerful aspect to measure is personalization. For CCR, that means providing students of all abilities, backgrounds, and passions customized solutions that will empower them to create a future that feels right to them. When you put students at the center of college and career readiness learning, they’re free to define their own version of success—leading to a greater sense of accountability and motivation.

A personalized CCR program acknowledges that students learn differently and have their own unique pathways. It’s designed to accommodate and encourage individual learners’ progress. And it provides a place where busy counselors and students can have productive meetings to review student progress.

For the 2019-20 School Year:

Consider your district CCR from a personalized learning perspective:

  • Does it allow for a variety of pathways for post-secondary success?
  • Does it connect what they’re learning in school with “real life”?
  • Is it interactive? And does it provide personality quizzes and other self- reflective tools to allow students to create their own dreams?

Educator Feedback

Is your CCR program making it easier for your teachers and counselors to engage students and help them plan for their futures effectively? Is it helping them save time by organizing all student work in a single spot? Are they able to quickly and easily access reports and know where their students stand in terms of readiness?

If you have an effective CCR program, the answer to all of these questions should be “yes.” Counselors and teachers should feel able to scale their support and manage large groups more effectively with less stress and in less time. With so many students to serve, they need a tool that provides a common ground where they can create a shared understanding with each individual.

The only way to know if your CCR program is living up to its purpose is to solicit educator feedback. Be sure to probe on specific workflows that they find helpful (e.g., tools to help with batch sending of documents). These are prime items to reinforce with new staff joining your district this year and key aspects to monitor for changes if and when your program innovates.

For the 2019-20 school year:

  • Get feedback from counselors and teachers through a Google survey, by running dedicated focus groups or in-person sessions, or at a standing meeting by putting together a poll or new agenda item.
  • See if staff can quantify time saved on key tasks related to CCR using the existing program.
  • Ask them to share their experience with the program from an educator perspective, beyond what it offers students.

Post-Secondary Persistence Rates

One of the hardest things to measure is the long-term success rate of a CCR program, particularly when it comes to 21st-century skills like persistence. It’s one thing for a student to be admitted to college, but the real triumph is persisting through the challenges of the first year and beyond. Unfortunately, the Coalition for Career Development reports that the US has the highest college dropout rate in the developed world and that college students are switching majors and taking longer to graduate than ever before.

An effective CCR program should not only provide tools and support to help students get into a college but also the skills and knowledge to navigate it confidently. In addition to academic preparation, students need to develop decision-making, problem-solving, and communication skills. Plus, they need to know how to collaborate effectively and be emotionally and financially literate.

That’s a tall order for a CCR program. Only a few programs offer age-appropriate lessons that instill these qualities from a young age right through to a student’s senior year of high school. With Xello, an integration with National Student Clearinghouse helps educators see exactly how their students are performing. Educators and counselors can be assured that the right knowledge is being imparted at the right time.

For the 2019-20 School Year:

  • Check in on a cohort of students who have already graduated and moved on to college or other post-secondary pathways. Send them a survey to find out how prepared they truly were to take on the next step. What were their challenges? How did they know how to persist?
  • Assess your district’s curriculum for helping students develop 21st- century skills and knowledge.

Student, Parent, and Community Sentiment

Although CCR programs are geared toward students, they have the potential to provide a ripple effect on families and communities as well. Effective online solutions allow students to share their profiles with their parents and learn about “real-life” jobs that may lead them to connect with community members who inhabit the roles they’re interested in.

When delivering a CCR program, it’s important to take the pulse of all of these allies to understand how it’s measuring up through their eyes. Asking students and parents to provide feedback helps shape your district evaluation. Reaching out to members of the community is a good way to manage talent pipelines and recruit students for work-based learning opportunities while they’re still in school.

For the 2019-20 School Year:

  • Ask local employers: How are students performing in volunteer or part-time jobs? What valuable skills and knowledge do they bring? What skills and knowledge do they need to improve?
  • Ask parents: Has your child shared with you their personal profile on their CCR program? Have you been able to help them with goal planning based on what they’ve learned? Do you feel your child is prepared for their future? Do you feel there are any gaps?
Heather Hudson
ABOUT HEATHER

Heather Hudson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and journalist. She specializes in content marketing, corporate storytelling and good old-fashioned journalism. You can read some of her work in The Toronto Star and learn more about her at heatherhudson.ca.