This post is the first in a new content series that’s focused on improving learning through innovation. The series will explore the challenges and opportunities facing today’s educators and learners in K–12, higher education, and enterprise learning environments. Stay tuned for more blog posts, eBooks, community articles, and other resources as the series continues to develop.
Ensuring that students at every grade level are prepared to enter higher education and graduate college is the singular focus of K–12 educators today. There continues to be, however, a gap between eligibility for college and students’ ability to do college-level work.
According to a report issued by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, every year in the US, 60% of first-year college students discover they are not as ready for post-secondary studies as they may have thought—with many of those students requiring remedial courses in English or mathematics. This lack of readiness for college is also directly tied to college outcomes: the majority of students who require remedial courses fail to complete their degree.
In these connections, we’re seeing concrete examples of how a key gap at one stage of the learning journey can directly influence challenges emerging at the next.
To ensure students are prepared as well as possible for college or their career, the US Department of Education has established rigorous “college readiness” and “career-ready” standards, setting expectations at the state level around the knowledge and skills a student should acquire during their K–12 experience. Schools, districts, and states are rewarded for success (or, alternatively, provided with swift intervention in the case of low performance) and schools are measured and supported in their efforts through the gathering of progress and growth data. This includes both graduation data and achievement in critical subjects, such as English and mathematics, which can be used to better determine a school’s needs and adjust target strategies.
Setting such clearly designed goals for student learning can significantly help shape student performance during the formative K–12 years. They are also key requirements in unlocking access to the estimated $14.5 billion  in grant funding available for college and career-ready students through programs such as Race for the Top (RTT) and Investing in Innovation (i3).
Within the classroom, learning technologies play a critical role. They provide an essential bridge between the curriculum that drives day-to-day, in-classroom learning and the educational standards aimed at ensuring both student success and college readiness.
Online learning enhances student opportunity
One advantage stemming from the use of technology in the classroom is the ability to reach more students through online learning. In 2003, the state of Alabama was ranked among the lowest performing states in the US for high school and college graduates. Students in rural and impoverished areas had access to only the most basic courses and lacked the resources needed to keep them engaged and heading toward graduation. The students in rural areas who were interested in pursuing higher education also had no access to learning management technology and no way to access the Advanced Placement courses that can be instrumental in making the jump from high school to college.
Ten years later, however this situation has been transformed through the introduction of an online learning program called ACCESS Distance Learning. ACCESS provides students in rural and impoverished areas with access to the enriched resources that can help them progress toward graduation. It also provides essential monitoring to help educators pull students back in when they fall behind. As a result of this revolutionary online learning program, the state has doubled the number of students taking advanced placement exams—and the number of students attaining qualifying exam scores.
Predictive analytics mean earlier intervention for at-risk students
In addition to creating more distance learning opportunities, learning management systems can also help K-12 schools better adhere to Department of Education standards by providing predictive analytics capabilities that will help educators visualize and project a learner’s progress against those standards. These leading indicators help schools quickly identify at-risk learners for intervention, reduce the risk of failure, and improve overall student performance.
Such predictive analytics have helped boost student graduation rates at Academy Online High School (AOHS)—a school that operates entirely online—teaching students who may never otherwise have finished high school. AOHS has turned to actionable insights surrounding learner performance to proactively identify and address student issues, successfully reducing failure rates by 36% over the last five years.
To compete and succeed in today’s competitive labor market, students graduating from high school must be prepared to go forward and succeed in some form of post-secondary education. Through a combination of rigorous government standards, classroom-based technologies for curriculum/standards alignment, and predictive analytics, K-12 schools and students can be enabled to bridge the college preparation gap and provide future generations with the best possible chance to realize their personal academic and future career goals.
Leveraging ASN data when building standards based K12 program
Brightspace Community Q&A Interview:
Community Spotlight on Academy Online High School
 Beyond the Rhetoric – Improving College Readiness Through Coherent State Policy – The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
 US Department of Education