In its report, “The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2011,” ACT reports that only 25 percent of students nationwide graduate from high school ready for college in both math and English. Before the release of this report, the Illinois State Board of Education had already adopted new math and English language arts standards for K‐12 education known as the New Illinois State Learning Standards Incorporating the Common Core. We all know that if students aren’t ready for college when they begin, their chances for graduation are greatly diminished. The good news is that community colleges are in an excellent position to work collaboratively with high schools to improve college readiness across all academic subjects.

At Waubonsee Community College, we’ve made college readiness one of our core priorities. We’re looking both internally and externally at how we can improve college readiness. When students come to Waubonsee, they can either use their ACT scores or take a placement test that gauges each student’s individual skill level. Sometimes test results indicate that a student needs to complete developmental level coursework prior to entering college-level classes. We’re making a concerted effort to make these developmental courses shorter and more intense, lessening the time before college-level classes. We also provide numerous tutoring options to help students find success in these classes.

At the same time, Waubonsee is also sharing information with local school districts and high schools so that our schools know how their students perform academically once they graduate from high school. This aids in data-informed decision-making that is essential to enacting significant improvements. Also, committees of Waubonsee faculty and staff and high school faculty are developing portfolios of college-level work so that high schools are better informed about the expectations their students will face in college. We’ve hosted a College Readiness Summit and have a second summit planned for February.

If you’re a parent, you might ask how you can make sure your child is ready for college. Even before high school, help your child set a goal of attending college. Then, once he or she starts high school, every student should have an academic plan that includes taking as much math and English as possible. Throughout high school, monitor your child’s schedule to make sure he or she is taking college prep classes. Should there be any bumps in the road, summer school can help students catch up as well as get ahead. Waubonsee offers a broad array of high school summer school classes. Finally, make sure your child is prepared for the ACT or other college entrance exams. There are specialized classes available to help students learn the unique test-taking skills to maximize their scores on these exams. Waubonsee also offers several ACT test preparation classes.

College readiness is a critical issue that can be successfully addressed if all segments of education work together. Being well prepared is absolutely fundamental to college success.