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According to an article by Sam Dillon in the NY Times, next year dozens of public high schools — in eight states — will introduce a program allowing 10th graders to get a diploma two years early. They will have to pass a battery of tests; and they will immediately enroll in community college. See the article at http://tinyurl.com/ygmrrw8
The plan is modeled largely on systems in high performing nations — Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore.
The program of high school coursework, with accompanying board examinations, is being organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy.
The goal is to insure that students have mastered a set of basic requirements, and to reduce the numbers of high school graduates who need remedial courses when they enroll in college.
Says Marc S. Tucker, president of the center,
That’s a central problem we’re trying to address, the enormous failure rate of these kids when they go to the open admission colleges. We’ve looked at schools all over the world, and if you walk into a high school in the countries that use these board exams, you’ll see kids working hard, whether they want to be a carpenter or a brain surgeon.
A planning grant of $1.5 million, to help the national center work with states and districts to get the program running, was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Tucker estimates that start-up costs for school districts would be about $500 per student. That would buy courses and tests, as well as the training of teachers.
In the fall of 2011 high school students in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, will begin the new coursework.
Backers say the new system can reduce the need for community colleges to offer remedial courses, because the score for the 10th-grade tests would be set at the level necessary to succeed in first-year college courses.
That means that failure can provide an early warning system to 10th graders — they would know which skills and what knowledge they would still need to master before applying to college.
Kentucky’s commissioner of education, Terry Holliday, said high school graduation requirements in that state had long been based on accumulating enough course credits.
This would reform that. We’ve been tied to seat-time for 100 years. This would allow an approach based on subject mastery — a system based around move-on-when-ready.
And Phil Daro, a consultant based in Berkeley California, thinks school systems like Singapore’s work well because they promise students that if they study the syllabus material conscientiously, they will do well on their examinations.
In the US, by contrast, all is murky. Students do not have a clear idea of where to apply their effort, and the system makes no coherent attempt to reward learning.
This system is similar to the growing early college high school movement, according to Dillon’s article. There, students begin taking college-level courses and earning college credit (through nearby community colleges) while they are still in high school.
The states participating in this board examination-based pilot project will pick up to five programs of instruction, with their accompanying tests, for participating high schools to use.
Programs already approved by the national center include the College Board’s Advanced Placement, the International Baccalaureate Diploma, ACT’s QualityCore and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education programs offered by both Cambridge International and by Pearson Education’s Edexcel.
sole source: Sam Dillon’s article in the NY Times on 2/18/10.
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