The Forgotten "C"

January 08, 2015

College and career readiness are two common themes in education today.  In fact, most states have created, or are working to create, a college and career readiness definition.  States promote this definition as the driver and indicator of success for K-12 education.  Of the states that have a definition, most of the definitions include pieces of the following elements:

  • Academic knowledge
  • Critical thinking and/or problem solving
  • Social and emotional learning, collaboration and/or communication
  • Grit/resilience/perseverance
  • Citizenship and/or community involvement

Some examples include:


  • “Being college and career ready means that a high school graduate has the English and mathematics knowledge and skills necessary to either (1) qualify for and succeed in entry- level, credit-bearing courses without the need for remedial coursework, or (2) qualify for and succeed in the postsecondary job training and/or education necessary for their chosen career (i.e., technical/vocational program, community college, apprenticeship or significant on-the- job training)”


  • “Although readiness includes being prepared to take credit-bearing postsecondary courses in core subject areas, Illinois’ college- and career-readiness objectives also extend to developing employability skills and opportunities for students to pursue a personalized education plan based on their academic and career interests”


  • Oklahoma is implementing the College, Career and Citizen Ready (C3) plan, “which will ensure each student graduating with a diploma from an Oklahoma public school will be ready for college or career without the need for remediation and will be citizen ready, meaning they will know something about our government and the history of our nation” (State of Oklahoma, 2012). 

Very few would argue that college and career readiness are not important.  However, I would argue that there is a ‘forgotten C.” It is the “C” that public education was founded on.  The “C” transcends a singular focus on college and career readiness and brings education full circle. The “C” is civic life (aka citizenship).  Civic life is more than the semester long government class you take your senior year in high school. It is “being bound by a common belief that our democratic republic will not sustain unless students are aware of their changing cultural and physical environments; know the past; read, write, and think deeply; and act in ways that promote the common good.” Civic life is putting those practices into place in educational settings and beyond.  

Only eight states include some aspect of citizenship within their definition of college and career ready. I would argue that “civic life” should be included as states are thinking about the true definition of success for a high school graduate and beyond.


Stefanie Wager

Stefanie Wager (@srwteacher) currently serves as the Social Studies Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education.  She has taught middle and high school for Des Moines Public Schools and Dallas Center-Grimes Schools in all areas of social studies.