As US school districts struggle with shrinking budgets, the option to snip a year or even two from students’ high school education has become increasingly appealing. For example, the Indiana General Assembly recently passed legislation  an “early graduation scholarship” that would let students who fulfill graduation requirements in their junior year apply the state money that would’ve been used for their senior year towards post-secondary education.

Arizona will also implement an early graduation policy that will allow students to take college courses for credit following their sophomore year, provided they pass a battery of board exams. Select public high schools in eight other states (Connecticut, Kentucky, Mane, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) will begin piloting similar programs this coming fall.

In this new system, which the National Education Association (the nation’s largest teachers’ union) supports, 10th graders can get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college. Students who pass the exams but want to attend a selective college can continue with college preparatory courses in 11th and 12th grades. The goal of the program is to ensure that students have mastered basic requirements, and to thus reduce the number of high school graduates who need remedial classes in college.

These programs, modeled on systems that have been successful in Singapore, France, Finland and other high-performing countries, hopes to shift the emphasis from seat time and credits to verifiable subject mastery. To be successful, the new approach must provide students with a clear course syllabus of what they need to study in order to succeed, and ensure that diligent effort and successful learning meets with success on the exams.

According to the New York Times, states that participate in the pilot project on board exams will pick up to five of instructional programs – along with their accompanying tests – for use in participating high schools. Approved programs currently include the College Board’s Advanced Placement, the International Baccalaureate Diploma, ACT’s QualityCore and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education curricula offered by Cambridge International and also by Edexcel.

Is it a good idea to encourage teenagers, who might otherwise stay in high school, to enter college or vocational training early? Does passing a board exam really mean a student is ready for college – socially, emotionally or academically?’s education blog offers a wide range of expert opinions.

What are some potential ramifications of these new policies and programs for tutors, both now and over time as they potentially become much more prevalent? My sense is that:

  • It will mean more work for tutors, because a significant percentage of kids (perhaps 20%) will opt for early graduation and will need to prepare for board exams
  • Tutors will need to develop new curricula and strategies in line with the new board exams and related coursework
  • Tutors will do well to pay close attention to the evolution of early graduation policies in the areas where they operate, so they can better target business development opportunities
  • Since a stated goal of the new approach is to reduce the need for community colleges to offer remedial courses, high school and college students who still need remedial help may turn to tutors instead.
  • The increasing adoption of board exams in high schools will increase the benefit to tutors of learning analytics software and services

Do you think policies that encourage early graduation are good for tutors? Good for our children and for education in America? Please comment and share your views.

Featured photo courtesy of Karen Apricot New Orleans.

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