To be honest, I cannot tell you how a single school-wide test in middle school helped me understand my potential career and college options. As a middle schooler, I didn’t see the connection of what I was learning to what’s possible post high school. I had limited resources to help me explore my options.

By the time I got to high school, I already made the decision that college was probably not for me. My first full-time position was setting up conference spaces at hotels. I didn’t go directly to college. I barely graduated high school. Careers, colleges, and majors all seemed like foreign objects meant for my peers. I had no idea an opportunity like being a research scientist was an option, and I was not alone in missing those opportunities.

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While there is an increase of information available to students, there is a shortage of connection points for students to understand what they are currently learning and how it leads to various career pathways. In short, our systems are desperately disconnected.

Nonetheless, students are still expected to climb one education ladder (K-12) and then jump to another sector of education (post-secondary) without much information on how well they might be prepared for success, on quality of the college, on costs, or future earnings. Often, students cannot find what’s best for them individually in the maze of decisions they face. And, while there is information available, information alone will not solve the disconnect between K-12 and higher education.

About the Author:

Gregory King is a research scientist at NWEA, and he uses quantitative methods to research college and career readiness, policies that impact higher education access and success, and the K–12 to higher education pipeline. Additionally, he has a focus in creating data visualizations that make research relevant, understandable, and actionable for educators, administrators, and policymakers. Dr. King holds a master’s degree in higher education from Colorado State University and a PhD in educational research and policy analysis from North Carolina State University.


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