Rethinking Readiness Offers Deeper Vision of Student Success

Published apr. 11, 2017

Education scholars urge new reform agenda to develop full range of skills needed to prosper in rapidly changing world

April 11, 2017 (Boston, MA) ­– A new book from Jobs for the Future (JFF), Rethinking Readiness: Deeper Learning for College, Work, and Life (Harvard Education Press), urges that schools replace the narrow federal learning goals of the past 15 years with renewed efforts to ensure that all students attain the full range of intellectual, personal, and social skills valued in today’s economy.

To be truly prepared to complete college and start a fulfilling career, students need more than a firm grasp of academic content; they must develop the capacities to think critically and creatively, communicate in diverse contexts, work effectively in groups, ultimately direct their own learning, and more. In chapters written by some of the nation’s most well-respected education scholars, Rethinking Readiness offers research to support the equity goal of teaching such competencies, grouped under the banner of “deeper learning,” to all students, including English language learners and students with learning differences. 

What would this mean for schools, educators, policymakers, and students themselves? In their introduction, editors Rafael Heller, Rebecca E. Wolfe, and Adria Steinberg point out the new urgency of such questions since Congress expanded state and local authority over educational decision making with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The answers include adding more work-based and civic learning to the curriculum, more ambitious teaching, and new systems of assessment, as well as leadership focused on making such changes.

“Education leaders today have the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that all students experience the kind of engaging, intellectually challenging learning that has long been the province of elite schools,” says editor and senior director of JFF’s Students at the Center team Wolfe. “This book is aimed at helping them in that effort.”

In concluding the book, the editors recommend policy priorities for states and districts to consider in order to move closer to the higher expectations of deeper learning for all students. Among the recommendations: creating incentives for employers and school systems to invest in work-based learning and building stronger partnerships between high schools and higher education.

“The editors have assembled leading experts in the nation to provide a very thought-provoking work on the purposes of secondary education, access and opportunity, and suggestions for implementation of deeper learning for college and career readiness in schools,” says Terry Holliday, chair of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and former Kentucky Commissioner of Education, in advance praise for the book.

The Rethinking Readiness editors are: Rafael Heller, a former policy analyst at JFF who is now managing editor of Kappan magazine at Phi Delta Kappa International; Rebecca E. Wolfe, a JFF senior director who oversees the Students at the Center initiative; and Adria Steinberg, a JFF senior advisor to the Students at the Center initiative. 


About Jobs for the Future

Jobs for the Future (JFF) is a national nonprofit that builds educational and economic opportunity for underserved populations in the United States. JFF develops innovative programs and public policies that increase college readiness and career success and build a more highly skilled, competitive workforce. With over 30 years of experience, JFF is a recognized national leader in bridging education and work to increase economic mobility and strengthen our economy. Learn more at

Students at the Center, a JFF initiative, is a leading national voice for the knowledge, skills, and dispositions all youth need to succeed in college, career, and civic readiness. Our work synthesizes—and adapts for practice—current research on key components of student-centered approaches to learning that lead to deeper learning outcomes. Our goal is to strengthen the ability of practitioners and policymakers to engage each student—and especially low-income and marginalized youth—in acquiring the skills, knowledge, and expertise they need to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s economy and be lifelong learners.


Rethinking Readiness is a product of Students at the Center, a Jobs for the Future initiative. We are grateful for the generous support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which encourages deeper learning to fully prepare students to become engaged 21st-century learners and citizens.