Why Community Colleges Will Soon Be Accepting High School Sophomores

Why Community Colleges Will Soon Be Accepting High School Sophomores
The next wave of community college students may just be high school sophomores. Learn about the new program that allows high school sophomores to graduate at 10th grade and proceed directly to community colleges.

A pilot program that is set to debut in eight states will allow students to graduate high school as early as the end of 10th grade if they pass certain exams and demonstrate subject mastery. Upon “graduation,” these students will enroll in community colleges.

About the New Program

The New York Times reports that the new program will allow 10th graders who pass “board exams” in math, English, history, and science to graduate two years early and begin taking courses at a community college if they so choose.

Those students who pass the exams but want to attend a selective four-year college or university may choose to continue taking high school courses during their 11th and 12th-grade years. Those students who do not pass the tests in 10th grade will have the opportunity to take the exams again at the end of their 11th and 12th-grade years.

The Program’s Goals

Reduce the Need for Remedial Coursework in College

One of the program’s goals is to reduce the number of students who enter community colleges and four-year universities unprepared for college-level work. The New York Times reports that “more than a million college freshmen require remedial coursework each year nationwide.”

The National Center on Education and the Economy, which organizes the program, says that students requiring remedial coursework are more likely to drop out before earning a degree, as Rhode Island’s Providence Journal reports.

The new program will address the problem of under-prepared college students by providing high school students with a clearer picture of what they need to study and master if they are to succeed in college, as educational consultant Phil Daro tells the Times.

Implement Recommendations from 2006’s Bi-Partisan Education Panel

The program is partly a result of recommendations that a bi-partisan education panel made in 2006. The recommendation was for America to adopt a system of board examinations in high school similar to those in countries that perform well on international education assessments, such as Denmark, England, Finland, France, and Singapore.

Allow Students to Move On to Higher Education and Careers at their Own Pace

Supporters also hope that the program will allow those high school students ready for higher education or vocational career paths to do so earlier if they are ready at a younger age. Deborah A. Gist, the Education Commissioner of participating state Rhode Island, told the Providence Journal that the program will help the public education system to be “flexible” enough to meet the needs of students with a range of abilities while also ensuring that all students are adequately prepared to succeed in higher education.

Help Meet the Needs of Struggling Students

Writing for the New York Times’s “Room for Debate” feature, Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, asserts that board examination programs will help struggling students by providing students and teachers with information about where a student is “falling short,” and thus, will allow students and teachers to customize the students’ studies to address weak points.

Participating States

The program will kick off in the fall of 2011 in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Times reports that the education commissioners of these states have pledged to sign up 10 to 20 schools in each state to participate in the pilot project.

The program is being helped by a $1.5 million planning grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the National Center on Education and Economy, which will work with states and districts to start the new program. Participating states also plan to fund the program by applying for some of the $350 million of federal stimulus money that are available to states that take steps to improve standardized testing programs.

Eventually, the National Center on Education and the Economy hopes that all of the high schools in the participating states will sign on to the program and that the program will spread to more states.

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