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States take action to prepare today's students for their futures

Many individuals begin their academic careers in preschool and continue on through elementary, middle and high school. However, unless the education they receive is of a high quality, all the time they spend in academia will do very little to prepare them for college and the workforce.

There are already obvious signs of trouble regarding the quality of the nation's education sector. For instance, The College Board recently released "The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012," which revealed that only 43 percent of SAT takers from the class of 2012 met the benchmark the College Board considers necessary to predict a high level of success in college.

While this data is certainly troubling, the nation's 50 states are not just standing by and letting their students' collegiate and career prospects slip away due to lackluster education. Instead, different states are taking unique approaches to improving the quality of K-12 instruction to ensure pupils graduate from high school ready for the challenges life has in store for them.

Recently, Achieve, a nonprofit education reform organization, released its "2012 Closing the Expectations Gap" report, which shows what steps states are taking to make sure students graduate from high school with a high level of college readiness.

Embracing rigorous standards
Based on the information contained in Achieve's report, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted standards that are designed to prepare students for college and their careers. Of these states, 45 - as well as the District of Columbia - have embraced the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in their entirety, according to Common Core's website.

"With all states adopting college- and career-ready standards, they have now taken the first step towards reorienting the mission of their K-12 systems to reflect the demands of the 21st century," said Mike Cohen, Achieve's president.

According to the report, a number of states began implementing the new standards during the 2011-2012 academic year, with the bulk of schools doing so during the 2012-2013 and the 2013-2014 academic years. The CCSS, as well as other states' college- and career-ready standards, are expected to be in place during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Establishing graduation requirements
To ensure students are not progressing from one grade to the next without essential skills, 23 states and the District of Columbia have adopted college- and career-ready graduation requirements.

Different states have their own rules for how these graduation requirements work. For example, Florida, Nebraska and Kentucky are among the states that have mandatory requirements in place. Essentially, this means that high school students must complete required courses before they are allowed to graduate. Then, there are the states that follow the default approach to graduation requirements, which automatically enrolls pupils in courses they need to complete their studies, unless their parents sign a waiver for them to opt out.

"The next few years will be challenging for the college- and career-ready agenda and we have to stay the course," Cohen said. "States have made tremendous progress towards college and career readiness for all by communicating its importance within, but also by standing together. Because of this commitment by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, college and career readiness is an expectation of our students no matter where they live."

When students meet the proper level of college and career readiness, not only do they benefit, but the communities, states and countries they reside in prosper as well, according to the report.