Increasing College and Career Readiness and Success


The Need

By 2018, projections indicate that almost two-thirds of all available American jobs will require some sort of postsecondary education.1 Raising skill levels is essential for students’ college and career success.

Yet high school graduation rates are alarmingly low in the West, with Nevada last in the nation at 56%, and rates in California, Arizona, and Utah between 71% and 79%.2 These are average rates, masking even lower graduation rates among African American, Hispanic, Native American, English learner, and special education students. Further, of those students in school, only around one third are proficient in 4th and 8th grade reading and math,3 and fewer than half of high school students in California and Nevada take upper-level math courses.4

In addition to being concerned about students’ preparation for life after high school, regional educators are focused on ensuring that the increasing numbers of students enrolling in college succeed once they get there. College degree attainment is lower than desired, while college remediation rates are high. For example, in 2007 in Nevada only about 22% of the state's population over the age of 25 had earned a bachelor's degree, and in 2009 about one third of  recent Nevada high school graduates were enrolled in at least one remedial course at a public Nevada college or university.5

Nationwide, graduation from postsecondary institutions comes at a slow pace for students, if at all. Around 60% of first-time, full-time students at four-year institutions and 30% at two-year institutions earn their degree within 150% of normal time to complete.6 Today, community colleges educate almost half the undergraduate students in the nation,7 with 42% of them reporting having needed remediation (and rates much higher in California community colleges),8 incurring great costs to both the education systems and students within them.

Our Work

REL West is addressing these issues by partnering with multiple research alliances that will validate and use indicators of student progress toward career and college readiness. The goal is to identify students at risk of not meeting this goal and test intervention strategies for them. Our focus is on building knowledge about student supports such as:

  • Strategic course placement and intervention in mathematics as milestones for college
  • Interventions for students at risk of dropping out of high school
  • Interventions with middle school students to get them back on track for college and careers
  • Supports for early childhood education
  • Implementation of Common Core State Standards and related instructional, curricular, and assessment strategies to support and accelerate learning
  • Outreach to parents and teachers about college expectations
  • Addressing issues related to transition to postsecondary settings
  • Strategies to increase college persistence and degree attainment
  1. Carnevale, A., Smith, N., and Strohl, J. (2010). Help wanted: Projections of jobs and education requirements through 2018. Washington, DC: Georgetown University, Center of Education and the Workforce.
  2. Stillwell, R., Sable, J., and Plotts, C. (2011). Public school graduates and dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School year 2008-2009 (NCES 2011-312). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved May 15, 2012, from
  3. National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). Common Core of Data public elementary/secondary school universe survey, 2009-10. Available at
  4. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. (2011). Measuring up: The national report on higher education (variables: math and science course taking [grades 912], 2005-06). Available at
  5. Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau. (2011). 2011 Nevada education data book. Available at
  6. National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). The condition of education. Available at
  7. American Association of Community Colleges. (2012). Fast facts. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved June15, 2012, at
  8. National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). The condition of education. Available at