The Call for a Better Benchmark for Career & College Readiness

Joe Belsterling (2)

This article is the first in “The State of CCR,” a series straight from our founder and CEO Joe Belsterling produced in partnership with the Career and College Readiness Benchmarking Initiative.

Want more? Take the free 2021 Career & College Readiness Self-Assessment or join us for our upcoming virtual panel discussion on November 4th.


There are numbers that keep me up at night.

  • 63%: the percent of students who graduate from a 4-year college within 6 years—and 43% of those graduates still end up underemployed
    NCES & Forbes

  • $1.6 trillion: the staggering amount of national student debt, carried by 44 million Americans

  • 9%: the percent of teachers and principals who have shared information on technical training programs with all of their students
    Source: RAND Corporation

  • 10-20%: the average amount of info students retain from text-based content, the most common type of career readiness instructional materials

  • 4 years and $202,257: the amount of time and money I spent unsuccessfully trying to find a career path that was right for me, even with an amazing support system around me that many students don’t have

There are staggering stats that illustrate the ways our workforce needs are changing while our postsecondary systems lag behind. Some of these numbers are why I built MajorClarity, a company helping K-12 schools meet the needs of a modern student population, an evolving job market, and a growing ecosystem of alternative postsecondary options. Put simply: we build content that allows students to “test drive” careers, then connect their goals to academic and postsecondary planning.

I’m passionate about this because I, like many graduating seniors, entered college without a career in mind. I worked briefly in politics, finance, start-ups, and a social work-esque environment. Four years later, I still hadn’t found the right career path but I had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was as proactive in trying out careers as I possibly could be—and had an incredible support system around me—so if I was struggling to figure it out this much, I couldn’t stop thinking about how students less fortunate than me were going to fare.

My story isn’t unique, though. There are a lot of folks out there working to improve the state of career and college readiness (CCR) in the United States. Which is great because there’s a lot of work to be done. And while policy creates both carrots and sticks—state regulations with mandatory requirements, grant funding, and regional resource consortiums—getting complex organizations like school districts to change course from a college-for-all mindset requires a lot of synchronized rowing. 

Change requires alignment. It means getting the folks on the ground level like the central office admin, counselors, CTE directors, principals, and parents on the same page. It requires communication, professional learning, and an equitable distribution of resources to support them. 

And, in my experience, that starts with a common set of measurable goals.

That’s why MajorClarity partnered with a coalition of K-12 and higher ed organizations to create the CCR Benchmark, a free self-assessment tool for school district leaders to audit their practices against national standards. Our goal with the project is to release a set of benchmarks that any postsecondary team can use to improve their internal CCR systems.

Measuring career and college readiness across the country has a secondary benefit: after more than a decade of "college for all,” we'll figure out if we are truly rebuilding systems that give all students the tools they need to graduate life- and career-ready.

A lot of the passion for changing CCR is there—who doesn’t want more postsecondary options? Who doesn’t want to get their kids into the hot or in-demand roles in our job market? But translating that passion into action is hard without the infrastructure and institutional knowledge to help students navigate a postsecondary ecosystem so different from our own.

So I hope you’ll join us in taking that first big step: taking a critical look in the mirror.

About the CCR Benchmarking Initiative

The CCR Benchmark Initiative is a collaboration between multiple K-12 education organizations with expertise in career and college readiness. The self-assessment was designed in coordination with WGU Labs, an affiliate of Western Governors University. The report will be compiled by MajorClarity, with aligned resources provided by the National Technical Honor Society and Mesa Cloud.

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