A Diploma at 16?
New Hampshire to Give 10th Graders Chance to Graduate Early
By Tim Weldon, CSG education policy analyst
Some students in New Hampshire might be willing to trade prom night and the other perks associated with being an upperclassman for a diploma after their sophomore year.
Under a pilot program approved by the state board of education last year, New Hampshire is set to become the first state to allow students to graduate early by passing board exams after 10th grade, skipping their final two years of high school. Those who pass the exam could either begin community or technical college classes or remain in high school to take challenging courses such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate subjects that would help them prepare for more prestigious universities.
Students who fail to pass the test after their sophomore year could retake it as often as they like. The state is still in the process of designing the exam, but education officials promise the exams will be rigorous. Implementation will probably take two years, after a yet-to-be-formed task force produces the exams for students.
The early graduation model is similar to the concept used in many European countries. Supporters believe the program will lower dropout rates in addition to allowing advanced students to get a jump on college classes. The idea was promoted in a 2007 report by the National Center on Education and the Economy called “Tough Choices or Tough Times.”
That reports states, “Now, many students just slide through high school because they know that all they have to do is get passes in their courses or a satisfactory score on an eighth or ninth grade level literacy test to go to college. With this system, they will know that they have to work hard in school to get anywhere, and the evidence shows that is exactly what they will do.”
The center estimates that if the entire country switched to a system similar to the pilot program in New Hampshire, along with other reforms touted in the report, the American education system could save $60 billion per year.
An executive summary of the report is available on the Internet at http://www.skillscommission.org/pdf/exec_sum/ToughChoices_EXECSUM.pdf. The full report, in book form, is published by Jossey-Bass and is available through www.josseybass.com or through book retailers.