College & Workforce Readiness

As ‘Accelerated Learning’ Booms, High School-College Divide Blurs

By Lynn Olson — June 20, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

One indication that the lines between high schools and colleges are blurring is the growth in programs that permit students to earn college credit while still in high school.

More than 250 educators and policymakers representing both the K-12 and higher education communities gathered here June 8-9 to discuss such “accelerated-learning options,” from Advanced Placement programs to early-college high schools.

“This is a policy area of great potential and certainly great interest,” said David A. Longanecker, the executive director of the Boulder, Colo.-based Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which co-hosted the event with the Boston-based Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit policy and research group.

According to a report on accelerated-learning options that the commission plans to release later this month, 32 states now have policies permitting students to earn college credit while still in high school.

Texas House Bill 1, passed this year, for example, requires that by fall 2008, all Texas districts enable students to earn the equivalent of 12 hours of college credit during high school.

And in Arkansas, school districts must provide high school students with the chance to enroll in at least one Advanced Placement course in the four core areas of English, math, science, and social studies by fall 2009.

But questions remain about such programs, including how best to finance them, how to maintain their quality and rigor, what types of outcomes are realistic, and whether they should be targeted at academically advanced students or at those who need extra support to succeed in college, conference participants noted.

Even the phrase “accelerated learning” stirred debate, with some questioning whether the goal is to shorten the amount of time it takes students to earn a college degree or, rather, to provide enrichment that would better prepare more students for college.

“The outcome may be acceleration for some people,” said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, the president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, “but the goal should be strengthening education for all of our children.”

Diverse Options

Conferees considered options including AP, the International Baccalaureate diploma program, tech-prep programs, early-college high schools, and dual-enrollment or concurrent-enrollment courses, arrangements that allow high school students to take college classes either at postsecondary institutions or in their home schools.

Typically smaller than standard comprehensive high schools, early-college high schools enable students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, or up to two years of college credit toward a bachelor’s degree.

A particular focus of the gathering was the promise that such programs hold for increasing the participation and success rates of students who traditionally pursue postsecondary education at disproportionately low rates, such as low-income and minority students.

“For many struggling students, the seriousness of college courses and the necessary support to get through them turns things around,” said Marlene B. Seltzer, the president of Jobs for the Future.

Good Data Scarce

Betsy Brand, the director of the Washington-based American Youth Policy Forum, a nonprofit group that educates policymakers and practitioners on youth and education issues, said that despite its promise, few good data exist on the outcomes of accelerated-learning programs.

She based her assessment on a forthcoming review she has conducted of 22 such programs, which either had third-party evaluations or had made a serious effort to collect data about their students’ performance.

“There is some good news there,” said Ms. Brand, who was an assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, “but maybe not as much as we would like.”

Few programs, for example, collected longitudinal data that could track the success rates of students into college, she said. And most focused on traditional college-prep students, rather than on those from more disadvantaged groups.

Quality a Concern

One of the biggest questions posed at the meeting was how to ensure that the college learning opportunities offered to high school students actually reflect college-level rigor.

“There is a difference between a college-level class and a college-like class,” cautioned Ms. Brand.

Of particular concern was the rigor of college courses taught in high schools by high school teachers.

One endeavor to document the quality of such courses is the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, established in 1999, which offers accreditation to programs that meet its standards.

Despite the questions raised, those here noted, accelerated-learning opportunities provide a concrete way to help straddle the traditional boundaries between K-12 and postsecondary institutions to the potential benefit of students and educators.

“Accelerated-learning options seem to us to be one of those key policies, one of those key practices, that have the potential to really break through a lot of our assumptions about the way things have to be,” said Dewayne Matthews, a senior research director with the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education, which supported the two-day event along with the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Related Tags:
AP

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2006 edition of Education Week as As ‘Accelerated Learning’ Booms, High School-College Divide Blurs

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Leveraging Student Voice for Teacher Retention & Development
Join our webinar on using student feedback to improve teacher performance, retention & student achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Infographic Students Feel Good About Their College Readiness. These Charts Tell a Different Story
In charts and graphs, a picture unfolds of high school students’ lack of preparedness for college.
2 min read
Student hanging on a tearing graduate cap tassel
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness How International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Programs Compare
Both the IB and AP programs allow students to earn college credit in high school. Though how the program operate can differ.
1 min read
Marilyn Baise gives a lecture on Feng Shui and Taoism in her world religions class at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla., on Jan. 23, 2024.
Marilyn Baise gives a lecture on Feng Shui and Taoism in her world religions class at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla., on Jan. 23, 2024.
Zack Wittman for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Dartmouth and Yale Are Backtracking on ‘Test-Optional’ Admissions. Why That Matters
The Ivy League schools say test scores help them make better decisions, but most schools are keeping tests optional.
6 min read
Image of a bank of computers in a library.
baona/E+
College & Workforce Readiness States Are Making Work-Based Learning a Top Policy Priority
Interest in career and technical education continues to grow in schools nationwide, new report shows.
3 min read
Kermir Highsmith, left, Dynasty McClurk, center, and Nevaeh Williams, work in their culinary arts class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 13, 2022.
Kermir Highsmith, left, Dynasty McClurk, center, and Nevaeh Williams, work in their culinary arts class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 13, 2022.
Nate Smallwood for Education Week