An extra year of high school? Mention this to your average American student and you can almost hear them shudder. As the Bangor Daily News reports, five years of high school could be an option for Maine high school students. On Tuesday, Governor Paul LePage issued an executive order to create a 19-member task force which will study the idea.
Five years of high school is not meant to penalize students, but to offer them the chance to gain college credit while still in high school. During his campaign last year for governor, LePage issued a report, “Turning the Page: New Ideas to Get Maine Working.” Drawing on a similar program in North Carolina and a nonprofit, the Early College High School Initiative, LePage has suggested that high school students could take introductory-level college courses and end up graduating with both a high school diploma and an associate degree, or two years of transferable college credits. These would all be free, as they’d be part of a student’s secondary school education.
Since 2002, they’ve helped more than 230 schools in 28 states and the District of Columbia make the five-year switch. They specifically work with schools attended by students who may be “first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color” or from low-income backgrounds—students that often need help getting on the college track.
I’ve heard of similar programs in which colleges and universities pair with local high schools, to allow high school students to take courses for college credit. In some programs, the student takes the courses in their own high school; they aren’t necessarily taught by college professors, but by teachers who have received special training. The courses are supervised by a someone from a college or university, to ensure that the curriculum and course work are on a par with that at a college or university. In other programs, students actually take courses in community colleges or other colleges and universities.
Currently, high school students can already work on getting college credit in high school by taking AP courses, as GOOD magazine points out. However, students need to know that just taking an AP course by no means guarantees college credit: Students must take the AP exam and score at a certain level (a 3 or higher).
Even if students complete such course work in the form of college-level classes taught at their high schools or AP courses, a college might still not accept the courses as equivalent. Many colleges and universities have started requiring students to take their own writing courses, regardless of what a student scores on an AP test. While a student is likely to get credit if he or she has taken an actual college course, there’s no universal system for transferring credits earned at one school to another; often, the Dean’s Office makes the decision.
Colleges and universities differ, but just because a student has taken a course in a topic like US History or Calculus or Chemistry in high school doesn’t mean they’ve learned everything about it and can forego that topic. College courses often go far more in-depth and require students to conduct more of their own independent research and analytical work.
On the other hand, more than a few students do start college needing to take remedial classes, especially in topics such as English and math. Some more years of preparation could be helpful and all the more as, students have to pay for the remedial classes in college, but these could be, under LePage’s proposed ideas, covered in public high school.
Come spring of each year, I see so many high school seniors out of class in the morning and wandering around my town, as (in some cases) they’re done with their courses (or, in other cases, cutting class_. Would it be better for students to get started earning college credit instead of just sitting around in their last months of high school? Or after four years, is it simply time for students to say a fare-thee-well to high school and move on?
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