How States Can Support Successful Postsecondary and Workforce Advising

K-12Postsecondary & Workforce

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This guest post comes from Ryan Reyna, senior director at Education Strategy Group, and Andy Tucker, director of postsecondary and workforce readiness at the Colorado Department of Education.

We know that high-quality advising is a game changer for students as they navigate the complicated transition from high school to postsecondary education. Unfortunately, current advising systems and structures are highly variable, disconnected and inequitable for far too many students. A new microsite from Education Strategy Group urges states and communities to align high-quality advising across K-12 and postsecondary systems and offers ideas for how to create a better connected and more equitable advising system for every student.  

State leaders play a particularly critical role in setting the right tone and conditions for transitions success. In my role as director of postsecondary and workforce readiness at the Colorado Department of Education, I’ve seen firsthand how state policy can help focus the activities of local administrators and practitioners. Below are a few high-impact ideas from Colorado for other states that want to support high-quality, aligned advising as an expectation for every student — not an enrichment for some.  

Ensure each student understands the key steps to postsecondary and workforce readiness. Aligned advising across the P-20 educational system can help to personalize education so that each student prepares for their best postsecondary pathway. Colorado’s Individual Career and Academic Planning (ICAP) process was established in law in 2009 for this exact purpose: to ensure that K-12 students have access to a process that encourages them to learn about their skills, career aspirations and academic interests. It also helps students make a plan to achieve their goals and demonstrate postsecondary and workforce readiness.  

Share data on postsecondary enrollment with K-12 leaders. State leadership is particularly critical in terms of vision and capacity for effective data use. Colorado, for instance, provides a feedback report illustrating the postsecondary progress and success of students by district, enabling K-12 leaders across the state to understand how their students fare after graduation and where adjustments in support may be needed. By tracking data on this and other Momentum Metrics — eight of the most predictive measures of college access and success —and making it available to high school counselors, principals and others, states can provide an actionable blueprint to target and refine their advising efforts for maximum impact.  

Incentivize the development of school-wide advisory capacity. While school counselors are essential to this work and can be the primary champions of career exploration conversations, to be successful, entire K-12 school systems can adopt a career and college readiness culture that includes all adults working with students. School counselors have limited access to students while teachers and other school staff interact with them each day. Colorado has worked to better equip all adults who are positioned to have career conversations with students through the Colorado Career Conversations Training Project. This includes a suite of resources that other states could emulate and build upon — particularly in light of significant American Rescue Plan funds that can be used for training and resource development.  

Build a statewide advising corps. State leaders have a significant opportunity to create a statewide postsecondary advising corps of “near peer advisors” to help ease transitions and steer students toward success. These initiatives could build needed capacity in communities that predominantly serve students of color, students in low-income households and first-generation college students. Colorado’s School Counselor Corps Grant program increases the number of counselors in schools to support advising that is critical to postsecondary and workforce success. 

State policy that introduces and expands aligned advising across the P-20 educational system can ensure that students are postsecondary and workforce ready. All students are career-bound, and state policymakers can use these considerations to ensure that each learner has the tools and resources they need to succeed.

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