February 18, 2010
Eight states will begin a pilot program next year which will allow qualified high school students to receive a diploma after sophomore year and immediately enroll in community college.
Organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative is intended to reduce the number of high school graduates who are unprepared for college and require remedial classes. The program, which be offered in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, will allow students to take a series of tests, called board exams, which will determine their ability to go on to college. The program is based on systems already in place in countries such as Denmark, England, Finland and France.
"By introducing these Board Examination Systems in pilot high schools in these states as early as the 2011-12 school year, we will begin a process that will ultimately prepare dramatically more students for college success and greatly reduce the high number of students who now take remedial courses in college," said Marc S. Tucker, president of NCEE, in a press release.
Students who pass the tests will earn a high school diploma and may enroll in any open-admissions college in their state the following fall, should they choose to do so. Students who fail the board exams will be able to try again at the end of 11th and 12th grades. Students who pass but wish to attend more selective colleges may elect to remain in high school to take more college preparatory courses for the next two years.
According to Phil Daro, a consultant from Berkeley, California, who is a member of an advisory committee for the effort and was interviewed in The New York Times, the new system aims to give students a clear outline of what they need to study in order to succeed. In Singapore, for example, school systems promise students that if they study the material in course syllabuses, they will succeed in their examinations.
"In the U.S., by contrast, all is murky," Daro told the Times. "Students do not have a clear idea of where to apply their effort, and the system makes no coherent attempt to reward learning."
Cindy Heine, associate executive director of Kentucky's Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, noted in the Lexington Herald-Leader that the program could appeal to high-achieving students who are bored with high school and want to move on.
"We've been concerned for many years about students who find high school to be not challenging enough or irrelevant for their future plans," she told the Herald-Leader. "This could be a good option, because they could move right on into really relevant material for future jobs or other opportunities."
Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman