US Department of Education

When scores from Connecticut’s new statewide test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), are released to the public later this month, Connecticut districts, school leaders, community members and families will have a more accurate representation of where our children are with regards to their college and career readiness.

As a former educator and Connecticut public school student, I know all too well the importance of standards that effectively prepare for life beyond high school.

After I graduated from New Haven Public Schools in 2006 and entered college, I experienced first hand how differing standards between states, cities and students can have real consequences and negative effects on the college experience of our high school graduates.

In high school, I did not have much guidance on how to become fully prepared for life after graduation, outside of simply being encouraged to apply to and attend college. Knowing since freshman year that my goal was to attend university, I dedicated my high school years to understanding my curriculum and excelling at my coursework.

My diligence was realized in my academic record. My four years of high school included honors and advanced placement courses. At graduation, I had the third highest grade point average for males in my class. I was well positioned to be a great college candidate and subsequently received a full scholarship to attend Fairfield University, becoming the first member of my immediate family to attend college.

It was at university where I quickly realized that despite my high academic achievement in high school, many of my peers had a leg up on me. Other students in my program seemed fully prepared and immersed in the rigor of the college experience. No matter how much I seemed to work, I simply was not prepared for life in college and found myself immediately behind my fellow classmates.

This humbling experience is not a referendum on any of my dedicated educators. I had wonderful teachers in high school, many of which worked hard for me to reach to the level that I achieved.

Unfortunately, my experience is far from unique. In 2014, less than half of all Connecticut students who took the SAT were actually ready for college, with striking readiness gaps across student groups. Every year we see excited high school graduates enter college classrooms and realize they simply cannot compete with their peers, eventually finding themselves in remedial mathematics and English courses.

In fact, in my city of New Haven, 70 percent of the class of 2010 who enrolled in a Connecticut community college or the Connecticut State University System needed to take remedial coursework in either English or mathematics. It is clear we must do better.

For far too long, we have done our students a great disservice by setting the bar too low. Too many students, through no fault of their own, excelled in programs that really were not up to the standard necessary to prepare them for the realities outside their high school walls. I am an example of this.

It is stories like mine and thousands of other students throughout Connecticut that show why rigorous standards and regular assessments against those standards is of the utmost importance if we are to ensure high school graduates are ready to thrive in college and ultimately lead Connecticut’s 21st century workforce.

With higher standards, measured by tests like SBAC, we are undeniably moving in the right direction. It is important we remain committed to setting the bar high and ensuring that every child, regardless of where they live or what they look like, can get an education that prepares for college and puts them on a path towards a lifetime of success and opportunity.

Darryl Brackeen is a New Haven alderman and community organizer for ConnCAN.

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