College in High School

1. The conversation we should have with every 8th grader

In his state of the union message, President Obama challenged Americans to get at least a year of college or job training.  They should do that while they’re in high school.  Advanced Placement and dual enrollment in community college courses is nearly universally available to all students—if not in their local high school or at a nearby community college, then online.  It’s a great way to demystify college while earning credit and saving money. 

Here’s the conversation we should have with every 8th grader in America:

We want to help you leave high school college and career ready.  You will be prepared to do college level work in two years and you have great  options in high school—you can take AP courses at school or online or you can attend a nearby community college.  Either way, you’ll experience success at the next level and earn free college credit!

2. a great school

iSchool, located in Chelsea high school in SoDo NYC is off to a terrific start.  It combines a problem-based curriculum with online learning.  Students work in teams on real world problems and they receive personalized attention online and in person—the best of both worlds. 

Two talented principals are supported by business partners like Cisco and Joel Klein’s talented DOE staff. 

Hybrid models like this will become the dominant form of education globally over the next ten years.  If your students don’t have access to engaging applied learning and personalized online learning, find out why not or help create the next iSchool. 

3. CBOs making a difference

In the last two days, I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with two great community-based organizations.  East Side House Settlement serves the southern Bronx with GED and after school programs and a full range of youth and family services.  Unified Vailsburg Service Organization ( in west Newark provides nursery and preschool, housing, afterschool, and services for senior citizens.  With little fanfare, CBOs stretch government and private grants and provide valuable services to underserved communities. 

CBOs are struggling to maintain services during the recession.  Find one doing good work near you and adopt it.  Help them make a difference. 

4. Charters!

It was great to hear the President give a shout out for charter schools.  Against great odds, charters are producing reliable quality in the toughest neighborhoods in America.  Visit Achievement First, Village Academy, Success Academy in NYC.  Visit Aspire, Green Dot, ICEF, or PUC, in LA.  Find a charter school near you and support it or start your own!

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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