Skip a Year or Two of High School

Sports, socializing, and selective colleges are the primary reason for 4 years of high school. Most kids can and should spend less time in high school and more time in career programs or high education.  Several reporters came to similar conclusions in the last few days.  Walter Kirn, NYT Magazine, suggests eliminating the typically wasted senior year.  Gregg Toppo, USAToday, reports on a similar proposal in Utah and provides some background:

Already, 21 states allow early graduation, according to the Education Commission of the States. And among the other 29, it’s not entirely clear whether state law actually prohibits it. Thirty-five states allow students to finish high school based on mastering proficiency standards in state tests rather than satisfying course credit requirements or years spent in school.

By the fall of 2011, a small group of high schools in eight states will take part in a new initiative, announced last week, that will allow high school sophomores who pass a series of “board exams” to graduate two years early and move directly to a two- or four-year college. [see NCEE for more]

Since 2002, another effort, underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has created more than 200 “early college high schools,” which enroll 50,000 students for a similar purpose [see Early College High Schools]….many high schools now allow students to enroll in college concurrently, often with a chance to earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree in [four or] five years.

The 300 members of the Alternative High school Initiative demonstrate the potential for accelerated learning even among students that enter high school years behind.  AdvancePath students enter earning credits at 1/4 the typical rate and quickly begin earning credit at an accelerated pace, often 1.5-2x typical pace.
Here’s the conversation we should have with every 8th grader that’s close to grade level: you’re going to be doing college level work in two years.  Your options are AP, IB, dual enrollment, or early admissions.  Each path has some unique benefits, let’s review them along with you initial interests and career plans.
The ‘leave when you’re ready’ approach works well and could be encouraged with incentives for schools and students.  Coherent models with defined pathways and strong support system, like early college high schools,  are more likely to work for more students.
Accelerated pathways incorporating dual enrollment have the potential to save students time, families money, and boost GDP with more focused and prepared college grads sooner.

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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1 Comment

Hans Hageman

This is definitely something that needs to be examined. I remember how frustrating it was at my independent schools when people would derisively sniff at the "individual education plans" that made sense for ALL students.

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