Fast track to college

| November 12, 2010

12 states (Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Arizona, New York, Massachusetts, and Mississippi) are piloting a new program for high school students that may turn the traditional model on its head.

The program is organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which will provide an evaluation of the model). The project is intended to reduce the number of high school grads that are unprepared for college and need to take remedial classes.

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The model would allow students to take a test at the end of the 10th grade (a “board exam”), the results of which would lead to several different options. For one, if the results show that a student possesses the equivalent knowledge of 4 years of high school, s/he could receive a diploma/certificate and enter a community college program. Depending on their score, students could also choose to enter into the workforce. The results could also allow students to enter into a 4-year college institution (but they would have to take a more challenging version of the exam). Students who pass the test but want to attend more selective colleges can opt to stay in high school to take more college prep courses.

In one of the participating schools of Mississippi, the dropout rate is 13%. Said the superintendent of this school, Lee Childress, “We know some children just aren’t going to go to school past 16 years of age, whether you or I like it or not.”

Childress argues that this model could help fight the dropout rate while introducing more rigor into the high school and 7th and 8th grades as students (and teachers) strive to meet benchmarks.

The model, for all states in the program, will be implemented for the upcoming school year, 2011-2012.

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