Twenty-one high schools in four states hope to prepare students to start community college classes in 11th grade, reports Education Week. The Excellence for All pilot was developed by the National Center for Education and the Economy.
After two years in high school, students who pass exams could enroll in technical or academic college-level classes taught at their high school or at a nearby community college. Those who fail will get extra help to pass on a second or third try.
The 21 schools in Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Mississippi have agreed to choose from specified packages of curricula and exams. For the lower division, in a student’s first two years, schools may use the ACT’s QualityCore program or the University of Cambridge’s International general-level program. For the upper division, schools may choose junior- and senior-level courses from ACT QualityCore, the Cambridge International A and AS level programs, the International Baccalaureate program, or the College Board’s Advanced Placement International Diploma Program. The programs include English/language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts.
While some students may choose career training after two years, the model doesn’t track students, says Marc S. Tucker, the NCEE’s president.
“Tracking happens when educators provide kids with different curriculums with different challenge levels based on assumptions about their capacity,” he said. “This denies them opportunities. We are finding out what it takes to be successful in community college and making sure every child can reach that standard before they leave high school, so they can choose from all available options. That doesn’t close down opportunities; it expands them.”
Partner community colleges have agreed that students who pass the lower-division exam will be able to start earning credits in college-level courses.
Preparing students for college-level classes in two years will be challenging, said Mel Riddile, the associate director of high school services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
As principal of JEB Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va., from 1996 to 2006, Mr. Riddile offered all students the IB program. It took years of steady work with the feeder middle schools to enable even half his students to be ready for it, he said.
“I’d guess this [pilot] will take five to seven years of work to get most kids coming into 9th grade with the needed skills,” Mr. Riddile said. “In the short term, they need massive supports in 9th grade.”
Most high schools have trouble preparing students for college-level classes in four years. Excellance for All is a very ambitious plan.