A Thought Leader Roundtable on Readiness and Schools: Filling the Traps and Closing the Gaps

June 10, 2015

How can schools better help young people navigate the traps and gaps that impede their readiness to meet life’s challenges? Three leading thinkers in the youth field recently got together to tackle that very question.

The June 9, 2015 “Thought Leader Roundtable on Readiness and Schools” featured Stephanie Krauss, senior fellow with the Forum for Youth Investment, Bryan Joffe, director of education and youth development at AASA: The School Superintendents Association, and was moderated by Karen Pittman, CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment.


Stephanie KraussStephanie Krauss

The Forum for Youth Investment

Bryan JoffeBryan Joffe


Karen PittmanKaren Pitmann

The Forum
for Youth Investment


The topic was chosen because leaders across sectors — from education and afterschool to government and business are talking about the need to increase the skills and habits that young people need to succeed in school, work and life.

“Whether you call them nonacademic competencies, soft skills, readiness abilities, there's public attention on competency,” Pittman said.

Here's a quick summary of the discussion.

The "Readiness Traps"

In every youth system, we see echoes of four common "readiness traps":traps

  • Access as a proxy for quality – A dangerous trap is assuming that giving youth access to services and supports is enough. Access is essential, especially for undeserved populations, but we also need to ensure the high quality of those services and supports.
  • Age as a proxy for stage – Moving kids through systems just because they are getting older (such as social promotion through school) is dangerous, because many youth need more time to master certain skills and abilities.
  • Completion as a proxy for competence – Just because a young person earns a credential (such as a diploma or certificate of completion), that doesn’t mean he or she has what it takes to make it at the next level, be it school, employment or life in general.  As Krauss mentioned, “The focus, culturally, has been on getting a diploma, not getting prepared.”
  • Time as a proxy for progress – We often operate under the assumption that spending a certain amount of time in school,a program or receiving an intervention leads to guaranteed readiness. Unfortunately, we know that that’s not always true.

Bryan Joffe shared a common example of a pervasive readiness trap that cuts across educational and juvenile justice systems: time used as a discipline technique.

“When we remove a student from school with an out-of-school suspension or alternative education program, we’re essentially saying that staying home on Wednesday will prepare you for Thursday when we know that’s not a very accurate understanding of how … behavior modification works," he said. "We disproportionately affect students who need that time in school the most.”

Among the other points raised during the discussion:

The role of out-of-school time providers  Afterschool providers are increasingly working with schools to address traps and gaps, using their know-how and experience in youth development to complement the work of teachers. As one listener tweeted, “Quality out-of-school time programming can help build confidence and competence.”

On the difference between equality and equity, Joffe noted that, “Equality asks everyone to climb the same set of stairs. Equity builds ramps for those who need them.”

Listen In

Hear Stephanie Krauss on why schools and systems need to “flip our orientation” and start measuring readiness criteria and abilities, Karen Pittman on California’s New Tech High, and more, in the full recording (one hour):