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College and Career Readiness Definitions

Most SREB states have one definition for college and career readiness while some states define college readiness and career readiness separately. As states continue to focus on postsecondary preparedness for their students, SREB encourages states to consider revisiting their definitions over time to ensure the definition, goals and policies are aligned and relevant.

See below for a look at each state’s college and career readiness definitions. (Updated August 2019)

Defining Readiness in SREB States

This is a map showing which SREB states define college and career readiness. Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina do not define college and career readiness at the state level. All other SREB states have a statewide definition.


College and Career Readiness

By 2025, two out of every three jobs will require some education beyond high school. Yet far too many students are graduating from high school without the knowledge and skills they need to earn a credential or degree.

Readiness is central to SREB’s core mission of helping states increase educational attainment and grow their economies.

SREB offers policymakers detailed data on policies and how states are using them to improve achievement. And we serve districts and schools with career pathways, curricula and professional learning to help educators prepare students for what comes next in their lives.

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Highlights and Trends

1. Twelve SREB states have adopted state-level definitions for college and career readiness. Louisiana’s board of regents has defined college and career readiness; in South Carolina this definition is set by the department of education. Kentucky, Texas and West Virginia have developed separate definitions for college readiness and career readiness.  

2. Many SREB states offer students multiple diploma paths to high school graduation — with varying course requirements. While most states have a standard diploma path, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia offer two diploma paths, each focused on either college or career technical areas. In many of the states with single diploma tracks, students are provided with concentration or endorsement options that allow to them to choose required or elective courses with a college academic or career technical focus.

3. Depending on the state, students must complete from 21 to 24 units to earn a standard high school diploma. All SREB states require students to complete four English courses.

4. The majority of SREB states require four math courses to earn a standard high school diploma. Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia require a minimum of three.

5. Math course requirements vary by state. However, every state requires students to complete an Algebra I course or equivalent. Recently, several states have eliminated their requirement for students to earn a credit in geometry. It is becoming increasingly common for states to also allow students to substitute a computer science course as one of their math requirements.

6. Most SREB states require students to take three science courses (Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana require four) to earn a standard diploma, and that at least one of the science courses be lab-based or that lab-based experiences are incorporated into the courses.

7. Most SREB states use end-of-course tests to measure student academic progress across a variety of courses and subjects. Many of these states require that the exams count as some percentage of the final grade for the course.

8. Most SREB states link eligibility for graduation to passing certain courses and exams. Virginia, for example, requires that students pursuing a Standard Diploma must pass six end-of-course exams; students pursuing the Advanced Diploma must pass nine.

9. Every state now incorporates college and career measures into its accountability system. State measures include, for example, the use of assessment results in various subjects, participation in accelerated learning opportunities, and industry certification.

10. Five SREB states (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina) require that all high school juniors take the ACT as a measure of college and career readiness, while Delaware and West Virginia require all juniors to take the SAT. Several states accept either.

11. While every state requires middle school and high school students to participate in academic and career planning activities, not every state designates specific activities or timelines. Many states, however, have additional requirements for at-risk students.

12. Every SREB state offers accelerated learning opportunities that allow high school students to earn college or career technical credits through a variety of programs such as dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, Early College and competency-based credit.

13. All SREB states have developed postsecondary to high school feedback reports, through which the state notifies districts and schools about their graduates’ postsecondary enrollment performance.

14. While some SREB states have linked high school graduation requirements to college admission requirements, other states allow institutions to set admission requirements independently.

15. Most SREB states require that 11th grade assessments be used for postsecondary placement. Nine of these states exempt students who pass the assessments from postsecondary institutional placement testing.

16. Most SREB states provide some combination of need-based and merit aid. All SREB states besides Georgia offer need-based scholarship programs to increase educational access for students from low- and middle-income families.

17. Eight SREB states use state lottery funding to support merit-based aid programs. Two use lottery funds to support need-based aid programs.

18. Nearly all SREB states have established minimum high school grade point averages between 2.5 and 3.0 to be eligible for state need- and merit-based financial aid. Thirteen SREB states also tie continuing eligibility for state financial aid to specific credit hour requirements, either by semester, academic year or a specified evaluation period.

19. Eleven SREB states require students to complete a specific number of credit hours per semester or year to retain financial aid. One SREB state stipulates that students must complete 75 percent of credits attempted.


SREB Regional Overview

SREB states continue to update and refine their policies related to high school completion and postsecondary admission. States have developed and reformed their assessment and accountability systems, made strides in aligning high school graduation and college admission requirements, and offered more college and career planning. Highlights of recent changes include the following examples. (Updated October 2019)


Jeff Gagne
Director, Policy Analysis

Jeff Gagne

Jeff Gagne joined the Southern Regional Education Board in 2010. He oversees SREB’s policy analysis efforts, including policy briefs, reports, state policy support and SREB’s customized, biennial state progress reports. He brings more than 20 years of experience in education policy issues at the state, federal and regional levels. Prior to SREB, Jeff worked for a governor, a state department of education and the United States Senate. He earned his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.


Meagan Crowe
Policy Analyst

Meagan Crowe joined the Southern Regional Education Board in 2017 as a policy analyst for high school and postsecondary education. Her experience includes commisioned research for the Center for State and Local Finance and producing finance and education policy summaries as a graduate research assistant. Meagan holds a Master of Public Administration from Georgia State University with a certification in Nonprofit Leadership and Management as well as her Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.