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ImprimirCheryl Oldham is the Vice President for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The higher education community came together this week to show its continued support of high academic standards and aligned assessments in K-12 education. A joint statement from Higher Ed for Higher Standards, the National Association of System Heads, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association urges states to continue moving forward with college and career ready standards and aligned assessments.

Why is this important?

This is important because low standards in K-12 education have led to a generation of young people who believe they were prepared for life after high school when often they were not.

Let’s take a look at the data.

Fifty percent of first-year students at two- year colleges and 20 percent of first-year students at four-year schools require remedial courses. These are courses that cost students money (for no credit, mind you) to teach them material that they should have received in high school.

Just over half of students who start a four-year bachelor’s degree program full time actually finish in six years. Less than three out of ten students who start at community colleges full-time finish in three years. And we know that for those students who must take remedial courses their likelihood of completing their postsecondary education drops dramatically.

It’s no wonder why those in higher education are concerned.

And the business community is not immune to the effects of a low-performing K-12 education system, either.

Currently, there are four million jobs going unfilled around the country partly because there aren’t enough candidates with the skills employers are looking for. In fact, 92 percent of senior executives in the United States believe there is a serious gap in workforce skills.

The share of jobs that will require a postsecondary credential will increase to 63 percent over the next decade. Today, the percentage of Americans between the ages of 26 and 64 with a two or four year degree is only 38 percent.

Obviously, there is a sense of urgency here.

The good news is an overwhelming number of states have implemented standards that are more rigorous and aligned to college and career. This means that more students will be spending time in college earning college credit instead of rehashing high school lessons. This also means that more graduates will enter the workforce with the right skills to succeed in the 21st century.

In addition, states across the country have implemented assessments that are aligned to high academic standards. This summer, the results of the new student assessments will begin to be released.

These new assessments are an important and necessary step forward because they will provide students and parents with an accurate picture of a student’s progress and preparation for postsecondary education. Now, the scores on the new assessments will look different than what most people are used to. But don’t panic.

The bar is being raised and as a result, it’s a better reflection of how prepared our young people are. And the assessment will provide the kind of information that parents, schools, and teachers need so we can provide the type of instructions, supports, and help that students need stay on track or get on track. These standards and assessments are an honest reflection of proficiency and preparation.

It’s time we get honest with students, their families, and ourselves. Proficient in the past has been an empty promise. Proficient moving forward means prepared.

Prepared for college. Prepared for career. Prepared for life.

And that’s great news.

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s website.