Leadership Shifts

Leadership Shifts to Improve College and Career Readiness

Conventional school leadership practices are – necessarily – focused on preparing students for three “big things” — achievement on state tests, earning a diploma, and readiness for college. Now, however, a growing number of taxpayers, business leaders, political leaders, and education thought-leaders are embracing an additional common objective: career readiness. They believe that 21st century learners — who will live and work in a world that is changing dramatically and largely unpredictably — need to be both career and college ready. Schools need subtle shifts in leadership strategies in order to achieve career readiness.


Dynamics – Shift from disjointed programs to a more integrated, collaborative, adaptive system

  1. Energize the System: Embrace and empower schools as unique, complex and open systems, constantly influenced by the environment
  2. Overwhelm Inertia: Align school culture to truly reflect college and career
  3. Extend Your Reach: Develop strategic community partnerships

Direction – Shift from the comfort of status quo to accepting the challenge of ensuring all students pursue a successful path

  1. Personalize ‑ Don’t Standardize: Align with standards while also meeting individual student needs
  2. Aim for Rigor and Relevance: Target instruction that addresses college and career readiness
  3. Measure What Matters: Use multiple performance measures that reflect both college and career readiness

Diligence – Shift from teachers “delivering” routine content to learning that focuses on student needs

  1. Listen to Students: Adopt practices that enhance student engagement
  2. Begin with the End in Mind: Facilitate learning that moves students from where they are to where they need to be
  3. Revitalize Counseling Function: Improve student career counseling and transition as a comprehensive core school function
  4. Reflect on BETTER Learning: Stimulate teacher reflection on instruction yielding more student-centered, 21st Century learning

The white paper Leadership for College and Career Readiness fully describes the leadership shifts necessary to support enhancing career readiness in schools. These shifts in emphasis and intent also frame the work of the Career Readiness Institute.