5 Years of High School?


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.

GOOD magazine notes more about the Early College High School Initiative‘s work:

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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Karen Ryan
Karen Ryan2 years ago

It sounds like a great option for college-bound students.

Megan F.
Megan F.5 years ago

I think high school should not be extended to five years. First of all, more people will drop out. Currently, one fourth of all high school students drop out before graduating. Students become discouraged with school and choose not to finish. So extending another year increases the frustrations of the student. Additionally, this drop out rate could affect schools' income as more students drop out.
Another argument for extension of high school is to provide time for extra curricular activities. Not all students want to participate in these activities. This is a choice and shouldn't require all students to extend their high school career. Additionally, a focus on academics could allow students to graduate earlier. Overall, I think four years is better

Write S.
Write S.6 years ago

Five years in high school would provide direction for students who graduate and wander aimlessly for a year or two. Having college credits would solidify a goal. However; some students are not a fit. They acquire these credits; because it is a requirement of the school; but, they have no interest in pursuing a completion or work in that field. I do believe schools need to pursue more certification programs too alleviate the high cost and financial burden of some trade schools.

Eric LaRue
Eric LaRue6 years ago

Sounds good in theory, but there are some practical problems. When I student taught in an elementary school that went up to 6th grade (especially since my own elementary school experience only went up to 5th grade), the 6th graders were tired of the elementary school system and less inclined to cooperate. They were so ready to move onto middle school. I'm afraid something like that would happen in this case, where high schoolers are ready to move onto college and become adults, not just take college level classes in a high school environment. Plus, certain fields (such as music and theater) really require you to immerse yourself in the major right from the first semester of your college career, so you're basically shortchanging those students by putting them through a generic general education curriculum in a fifth year of high school. Now I know there are those who would say that the kids can take electives, but there's quite a difference between taking a generic college level class and taking that same class at a top quality school with a reputation for that field.

Charlene S.
Charla D6 years ago

I think 4 years of high school is already too many, especially for students who are not particularly academically inclined. By ninth grade, those kids whose talents lie in areas that do not require college degrees should be able to enter an apprenticeship program in their chosen field, whether that's plumbing, auto mechanics, welding, electronics, landscaping, entrepreneurship, retail, etc. Kids that want to go into medicine, law, engineering, or are otherwise scholarly, can being taking college level courses at that point. Why wait? Also, if any of the kids that didn't go the college route change their minds later in life, it's easy now to get a college degree from the convenience of home, so the opportunity to do that is always available.
The current College/university in the U.S. is largely a sham --just an extended version of high school and adolescence for most students and no longer the automatic ticket to a well paying job. There's also a huge debt bubble consisting of student loans that these kids just can't repay. Thousands of dollars of debt and nothing to show for it but a worthless piece of paper is not a good way to start adult life.

Don Go
Don Go6 years ago

I've heard of this, even in my country. If you ask me it's kind of stupid...but then I suppose it's a big deal over there.

Here college is kind of cheap, and actually it doesn't mean much. A diploma isn't very uncommon here, it's the knowledge and experience retained that gets everyone jobs.

Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago

Having college classes for high school students and five years of high school, will be helpful for many students, and therefore would be a great option. The reasons a numerous.

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan6 years ago

No Way!!!

Trinity L.
B M6 years ago

I'm in favor of anything that will contribute to a more educated population.

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon6 years ago

With so many community colleges and universities having to do remedial classes in basic skills such as math, reading and writing, for freshmen...we effectively have 5 years of high school already.