national, education, early graduation

New Hampshire Schools Move Toward Early Graduation

November 10, 2008 10:33 AM
by Christopher Coats
As school systems across the country await a new administration’s approach to education, early graduation has reemerged as a tool to make U.S. schools more competitive.

An Earlier Start to College

Rather than allowing early graduation only for gifted or advanced children, New Hampshire has opted to allow a 10th grade state comprehensive exam that would allow certain students to skip their final two years of high school.

Although early graduation programs in U.S. schools are hardly new, the state’s plan is intended to allow students not immediately planning on attending a four-year university to continue their educations at New Hampshire community and technical colleges.

Similar to current AP (advanced placement) tests given for college credit, the tests would allow some students to conclude their high school education, while others would be greeted with another round of exit exams in their 12th year.
One of the leading proponents of the effort, Marc Tucker, the president and CEO of the National Center for Education and the Economy, told Time magazine that, as half of U.S. students end up attending community or technical colleges, high schools should encourage them to get an earlier start.

The early graduation plan adopted by New Hampshire emerged from a 2006 report on education in America and international competitiveness called Tough Choices or Tough Times. The report, compiled by Tucker’s organization, spotlighted a number of through education reforms meant to increase competitiveness and performance in K–12 schools.

Two years after its publication, New Hampshire has joined Massachusetts and Utah in adopting a number of its key points at the end of October.

Opinion: Misdirected intent?

Although most of the report’s findings were not controversial in nature, the push for early graduation for students not bound for four-year schools has attracted a fair amount of criticism.

Citing similar programs in Asia and Europe, Iris Rotberg, a George Washington University education policy professor, argued that such efforts would unfairly aimed at lower income students.

“You know that the kids sent in that direction are going to be from low-income, less-educated families while wealthy parents won't permit it,” Rothberg told Time, suggesting it would lead to a more polarized educational system based on class.

Background: Waiting for a Change

Meanwhile, much of the educational world is awaiting President-elect Barack Obama’s first actions toward a promised reform of the nation’s education system, taking specific aim the President George W. Bush’s signature program, No Child Left Behind.

With a planned $18 billion in additional education funding, an emphasis on universal preschool and a move away from the standardized tests favored by the Bush administration, Obama’s plan still offers a few specifics aside from the information provided on his transition Web site, though there is currently no mention of support for either the 2006 study or early graduation programs.

In the meantime, education professionals are looking to the appointment of Obama’s Education Secretary to gauge what direction his administration will take. Though filling the post will likely to take a back seat to appointments for financial, defense and foreign policy leadership, The Washington Post reports that frontrunners include New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Chicago Public Schools Chief Arne Duncan, Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, and Jon Schnur, co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools.

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