College & Workforce Readiness

States Up Efforts to Let H.S. Students Get Jump On College

By Lynn Olson — July 25, 2006 3 min read
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States are adopting more policies that permit high school students to get a jump-start on college-level courses, according to a 50-state survey released this summer.

“Accelerated Learning Options: Moving the Needle on Access and Success” is posted by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

The study, “Accelerated Learning Options: Moving the Needle on Access and Success,” was published in June by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a nonprofit group based in Boulder, Colo.

The study also included an online survey of postsecondary institutions to find out if they have policies related to accelerated-learning options.

It found the most rapid growth in “dual or concurrent enrollment” programs that permit students to earn credit for college coursework while still in high school, either by taking such courses at a college or on their own campuses. Forty-two states now have laws or state school board rules pertaining to such programs, the report says, up from 23 in 2000.

State-Level Policies Related To Accelerated Learning

More states are passing laws or state school board policies on options for high school students to take college-level courses.

*Click image to see the full chart.

Click to enlarge: State-Level Policies Related To Accelerated Learning

SOURCE: Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education

In addition, 32 states have adopted state-level policies related to Advanced Placement courses; 12 have policies related to the International Baccalaureate program; and 13 have policies related to “technical preparation” programs that combine at least two years of secondary education and two years of postsecondary education in a sequential course of study in a specific career field.

The study found that such policies vary widely, however, in their breadth and depth. For example, 30 states lay out minimum-eligibility requirements for students to participate in dual- or concurrent-enrollment programs.

Other state policies address the granting of course credit; the funding of such courses or related tests; the preparation of AP teachers; the sharing of information about students across institutions; and incentives or accountability mechanisms for students, teachers, and institutions.

Florida Analyzed

Despite the popularity and promise of accelerated-learning options, the report notes, there is little research to document their effectiveness in promoting higher rates of college enrollment, persistence, or graduation. (“As ‘Accelerated Learning’ Booms, High School-College Divide Blurs,” June 21, 2006.)

One chapter of the report, by research associate Brian T. Prescott, addresses that gap. It draws on Florida’s longitudinal-data system to analyze the secondary and postsecondary transcripts of nearly 735,000 students who graduated from Florida’s public high schools from 1997 to 2003. The data set also contains information about any credit students earned for AP, IB, and dual- or concurrent-enrollment classes taken in high school.

Gaps Found

Overall, the results show that students with accelerated credit enrolled in Florida’s public four-year institutions immediately after their graduation from high school at much higher rates than their peers with no accelerated credit. They also were more likely to be enrolled continuously and to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree—and in less time—than their peers without accelerated credit.

Echoing a theme in the report, however, the study found black and low-income students in Florida earned some form of accelerated credit at substantially lower rates, and Hispanics at somewhat lower rates, than other groups.

Among other recommendations, the report says federal and state governments should offer financial incentives to high schools and colleges to provide greater access to such programs for underrepresented groups. States also should ensure that economically disadvantaged students do not incur expenses for participation in such programs and the associated examinations, it says.

A version of this article appeared in the July 26, 2006 edition of Education Week as States Up Efforts to Let H.S. Students Get Jump on College

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