The North Star reflects the characteristics of a successful student one decade from now, one whose defining quality will be his or her readiness for advanced education and career. While we know that an increasing number of jobs will require a four-year degree, we also know that there are many good jobs in Delaware that do not.
In fact, we know that there are hundreds of great jobs in sectors like advanced manufacturing or health care that only require a one-year certification or a two-year associate degree, and employers have indicated that they can’t find enough qualified applicants.
Preparing Students for Challenges Beyond High School
Decades of research confirm that higher levels of education correlate with higher earnings, higher tax revenues, and lower unemployment rates. Yet today’s preparedness measures for students indicate that too few of them are ready for challenges beyond high school. This has to change.
We are proud that Delaware is one of three states that administers a universal SAT with 90 percent or greater participation rates. We now need to focus on helping students improve their scores, as only 22 percent of the senior class of 2014 met the SAT college readiness benchmark.
Unfortunately, 53 percent of Delaware high school graduates, mainly students of color and from high-needs populations, are required to take remedial courses upon entering Delaware colleges. These courses do not provide credits toward a degree, but students on scholarship programs must still pay for them. Remediation is expensive and impacts degree completion. Nationally, fewer than half of students in remedial courses actually complete them—and many end up dropping out of college as a result. On the other hand, students who excel in their high school classes currently have limited options for dual enrollment in college-level courses to move at their own pace.
Incorporating Meaningful, up-close experiences
For too many young adults, meaningful employment is not within reach. Currently, 12 percent of young adults ages 20-24 are unemployed. This means a smaller percentage of youth are gaining work experience early in their careers, and, without any job experience, their chances of entering a fulfilling career are thin.
Student exposure to college and career must begin as early as middle school. High school years need to incorporate meaningful, up-close experiences at colleges, universities, and in the workforce. Life after graduation should generate excitement and ignite confidence. Graduating high school with college credits or an industry certification must be within reach for all students in the coming years—and Delawareans in business and higher education can help turn that possibility into a reality.
Freshmen year, I tried welding. It was something totally different, but I kinda liked it.
— Darrell, age 18, recent high school graduate and currently in welding trade school
- Several comprehensive state strategies dedicated to supporting young people to attend college, such as College Application Month and Getting to Zero
- Five new career pathways in some Delaware high schools, ranging from computer science to culinary arts
- SPARC Delaware (Succcess Pathways and Roads to Careers), an online platform that links more than 100 businesses to students statewide that helps students explore career options
- College access supports and scholarships through SEED (Student Excellence Equals Degree), Inspire, and the University of Delaware’s Commitment to Delawareans
Connect Education, Workforce, and Community Resources
Support school redesign that deeply integrates K-12 schools with postsecondary education institutions and employers and allow students to seamlessly transition across systems.
Strengthen educator capacity by providing structures for highly effective teachers to co-develop curriculum with employers to support new pathways. Expand teacher externship experiences to improve teaching practices.
Provide all students with early exposure to workforce and higher education experiences, beginning in middle school, with the goal of greatly increasing the number of students graduating high school with college credit, an associate degree, and/or an industry-recognized certification. Enable all students to graduate with one meaningful career experience and one higher education experience.
Increase alignment among K-12, higher education, and the workforce by connecting data systems to follow students as they transition across systems, and aligning K-12 graduation requirements with postsecondary entry requirements.
Encourage industry associations to develop certification programs, training centers, and apprenticeship programs for high school students. Engage employers in taking a significant role in developing industry-relevant curricula and meaningful workplace credentials
Enhance Student Supports and Access
Create multiple, rigorous learning paths anchored in key industries, aligned to the North Star characteristics, and linked to a range of academic and career options. Provide all students and adults with ownership over selecting a pathway that best meets their needs and aspirations. The pathways should allow for multiple entry points and should have the potential for advancement, with no dead ends.
Increase in-person and technology-enhanced counseling supports to engage students at an early age and help students and families navigate the system. Provide targeted support for those needing early intervention and those at risk of falling behind or dropping out.
Develop digital, individual student portfolios that document student mastery of both “soft” and “hard” skills required for graduation. Encourage higher education and employers to contribute to these portfolios by assessing student skills and by accepting portfolios when students apply for admission or a job.
Build on existing scholarships to provide Delaware students with the financial means to attend four-year, two-year, and certificate programs from public institutions of higher education in Delaware.