Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Combining High School and College?

Many gifted high school kids already take some college classes as a way to accelerate their education (indeed, AP classes are supposed to be at the college level, and some 60% of high schools now offer them). Now a school district in California is proposing combining a high school with a junior college to allow kids to earn a high school diploma and a 2-year degree at the same time. While many gifted kids have their eyes on 4-year-degrees, I think this close relationship between a high school and a college would be a great model for other districts.

You can read about Chico, California's efforts here. You can also read some complaints about the project here.

This particular letter-writer doesn't like the idea because kids will be giving up "friends and school activities." But one of the big complaints about the last few years of high school for many bright kids is that they're a holding pattern. You're pretty much grown up, but not entirely, from a legal perspective. You're probably ready for college work, but that requires a real push from parents or the kid to make that happen (will you take a bus to a college? Walk? will the college say yes? who pays?) Combining a high school with a junior college not only allows bright kids to move ahead, it allows kids at the junior college to brush up on subjects they might be spotty on. It's an unfortunate truth that approximately 40% of community college students must enroll in some sort of remedial course. If such classes are already being offered at an attached high school, both the students and taxpayers could save some money.

Of course, many concepts sound better in theory than in practice, but I think this one's worth a try.


Janice G said...

Laura, you are so right about these assumptions people are making. Why can't we focus on the needs of each child rather than assume what works for one child works for all?

Tony Plank said...

You are quite correct that this is worth a try. But truly almost any kid can benefit from a more customized educational opportunity. You would hope that at least the top kids can have the benefit of some minimal customization such as this.

My wife was actually stripped of Salutatorian *because* she took college classes while in High School. The honor was given to someone who never took an accelerated class of any kind but who had more “grade point hours”. Oh, and she received straight A’s in the college work as well. I often think about this and wonder how much things have changed since. I certainly hope it has changed a great deal.

Evidence of change is the gifted program which my Son is in. He is very lucky. But as happy as I am for him, it still makes me sad for all of the kids at every level of the academic achievement strata who would benefit for something more closely tailored to their individual needs. Someday maybe we will collectively wake up and realize that kids really are our future and start making appropriate investments in them.

GT mom said...

I recently took my 14 year old son on a service trip to a small village in Guatemala. There many children can't attend school until they are 10 or 12 years old becuase they have to work in the fields or help care for other family members. I spent time touring the schools there and talking to teachers. I discovered that when children enter school - at whatever age they are then - they are placed in the grade that is appropriate. Thus you will find 12 year olds in the second grade and so on. Image how much better our educational system would be if we did the same thing.

While many districts give high school students post secondary options and pay for those college classes, there are many middle school students (like my son) who are ready for college course work too. It is sometimes difficult to get districts to pay for those. It is imperative that GT parents lobby the districts to create partnerships with the colleges in their areas to facilitate the advanced education for these students.

Also, remember that the power lies with parents. We often forget that and take "no" for an answer. Public schools will listen if enough pressure is placed on them by enough parents. In our area many of us chose to boycott our state test until we got answers to our need for better GT education. We had a dialogue started the next day!

While I don't like to "get in their faces," it is someetimes necessary because gifted education is the stepchild of our educational system.