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K-12 Career Readiness Programs

January 30, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Brittany Whitley and Dr. Alan Moss

Executive Summary 

Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAP) are optional, individualized plans for students created with inputs from parents or guardians and guidance counselors. Many states require or encourage students to develop ICAPs. House Bill 2171 and Senate Bill 703 would make these plans mandatory for public school students before they enter the 9th grade and would require yearly reviews from 9th–12th grade. Additionally, the proposed legislation would require most students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and declare their post-graduation plans prior to graduating. Finally, it would require students in Missouri school career centers to be informed about federal aid available through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 


  • Linking student skills to career options during middle school can improve student motivation by allowing students to create high school and career plans based on their skills and interests.
  • Due to high ratios of students to counselors, middle school counselors have limited time to spend on individual career planning.
  • There is significant variation between middle school career readiness training (including elective or online programs) and standards between states in the U.S. 


  • There is a large lag between middle school and career outcomes for most students. Because many of these programs have been recently implemented, it is difficult to measure which programs are associated with improved college and career readiness.
  • The effects of a specific career readiness course on student performance are difficult to evaluate because student outcomes are impacted by a range of additional factors such as academic performance, family resources, institutional rigor, and support.


This Note has been updated. You can access the previous version (published October 2020) here.

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