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Several States Take on High School Course-Work Re-Vamp For Earlier Graduation

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Beginning in 2011, 10-20 high schools in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont will implement a new course-work model, including board examinations, currently used in countries such as Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore that would allow high school students to graduate as early as their sophomore year.

The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), announced their recommendation for the new system and pilot implementation, made possible by a $1.5 million planning grant donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, back in February. Their aim is to dramatically increase the productivity and performance of high school students in the participating states in hopes that these students will be ready to enroll in college sooner and be more successful at college-level academics.

This instructional system, which has already set international standards, should guarantee that high school students will be more than proficient in basic prerequisites and should also help curtail the number of college remedial courses the students would probably otherwise have to take, courses that may likely be a catalyst for the college drop-out rate.

Educator Endorsed

Educators have been enthusiastically in favor of this new system since its inception. In 2006, the NCEE, who is responsible for “analyzing the impact of the globalizing world economy on the requirements for education and job training in the United States,” first introduced the plan in their report, Tough Choices or Tough Times. The report was widely celebrated by members of the media and academia and even landed a cover story for TIME magazine.

Other notable backers include the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Spending Forecast

Cost in education is a precarious thing currently. Many struggling states are cutting costs by nearly thirds in their education programs and proposing major staff lay-offs going into the next year.

Architects for this new system are hoping that by narrowing the duration of a student’s time in high school, it could save money, but start-up costs could mean $350 million paid for in federal stimulus money, funding which was originally intended for the improving of public school testing.

Marc Tucker, NCEE President, proposes the new plan would cost $500 per student for teacher training and the purchase of course materials and tests.

Board Examination Programs and Accountability

The 10-20 pilot schools in the participating eight states who will begin implementing the new course-work plan next school year will be overseen by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) responsible for authorizing and ensuring that the board exam programs meet the Common Core Standard. “By offering high schools a variety of programs that each cover core subjects and are set to the level of cognitive demand needed for success in college, high schools will be able to choose those instructional approaches that best suit their students’ needs and faculty’s interests.” (NCEE)

Already approved programs include:
  • ACT’s Quality Core
  • Cambridge International Examination’s International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and AICE program
  • College Board’s Advanced Placement program
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma program
  • Pearson/Edexcel’s IGCSE and A-level programs


How the New Plan Affects Students

Students enrolled in any of the participating high schools and volunteering to take part in the trial system, must take the board exams at the end of their sophomore year. If they pass, they can receive their high school diploma and choose to apply in open admissions as a full-time college student for the next fall semester in that respective state. These students can also choose to stay in high school and take courses that would get them ready for admissions into a selective college.

Students who do not pass the board examinations on their first attempt will be recommended to take a “customized” program developed to aid them in passing on their second board exam attempt.

A major selling point in this new plan for students is not only early graduation but beginning college-level academics sans remedial courses.

Future in Education

Confident this new design of course-work will improve the structure of U.S. Education systems, the NCEE is already planning is recommendation to the U.S. Department of Education, delivering “the world’s best assessment systems to U.S. schools.”

“The project’s backers hope it will eventually spread to all schools in those states, and inspire other states to follow suit.” (NYTimes/Dillon)

If the plan is successful and other states begin to adopt the new system, it could make the community college as we know it obsolete.

(Source: NCEE, NYTimes)

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