The need to improve college readiness for high school students is an important agenda for educators. Despite years of efforts and debates, U.S. students are still lagging in this aspect.

While others are awaiting government and administrative inputs, some schools have gone ahead and applied the Cambridge Assessment standards to their curriculum. The results speak for themselves.

What is Cambridge Assessment?

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a recognized curriculum around the world. A part of the Cambridge Assessment International Education, this set of rigorous academic standards prepares students with an international academic background and preps them with post-graduate thinking while they are still in high school.

The curriculum is recognized by high-ranking colleges and universities globally. Educators who are focused at enhancing students' college readiness are working hard to implement the standards here in the U.S. Instead of relying on tests and grades — the system we are in now the Cambridge system's emphasis is on helping students develop critical thinking skills.

One school that has implemented the Cambridge Assessment International Education standards is the John Overton High School based in Nashville, Tennessee. In five years, the school has seen a tangible difference in the way their students think. Instead of memorizing, they are encouraged to think about what they are learning and synthesize their knowledge with practical examples.

An average high school curriculum does not prepare our students for the graduate thinking mode. In fact, colleges in the U.S. are also behind in recognizing programs like these for their future students. Their emphasis and encouragement for the Cambridge standards like Advanced Placement test use and International Baccalaureate adoption would propel more schools to incorporate them into their curriculum.

Instead of assessing answers, the program assesses students' understanding of the subject. Universities want students who are critical independent thinkers, while employers want students with problem-solving skills. Cambridge takes these into the equation, and its standards are geared toward teaching students higher-order thinking skills. It's not enough to know; students must learn to apply their knowledge.

U.S schools, like ones in the north Mississippi Corinth School District, are finding the results appealing. The district has tangible proof of success in their closing of achievement gaps between students after implementing the curriculum. Earlier in 2017, Fairdale High School in Louisville, Kentucky, reported how the programs helped turn around their college readiness from 20 percent to over 38 percent in five years.

Currently, 78 percent of higher-ed authorities believe our schools are not doing a good job in college readiness. It's a worrisome figure that has been increasing in the last 10 years.

More than 300 U.S. schools reportedly use the Cambridge standards now. If more schools were to adopt the new program, things would improve.

As one college board member put it, when they see a Cambridge student, they know they can expect higher cognitive and thinking abilities. They are set up for success with the right standards, and it's time all students across the nation had this edge.