Testing out of high school in 10th grade

New Hampshire plans to let students skip 11th and 12th grade and go straight to college, if they pass a new set of state exams in 10th grade. From Time:

Once implemented, the new battery of tests is expected to guarantee higher competency in core school subjects, lower dropout rates and free up millions of education dollars. Students may take the exams — which are modeled on existing AP or International Baccalaureate tests — as many times as they need to pass. Or those who want to go to a prestigious university may stay and finish the final two years, taking a second, more difficult set of exams senior year.

New Hampshire is following recommendations by the  New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.

The state also is tracking students’ progress closely and plans to adopt “formalized curricula that specify exactly what kids should know by the end of each grade level.”  In theory, students will get help as soon as they need it, instead of waiting till they’re years behind their classmates. With less class time devoted to remediation and review, students will be able to learn more by the end of 10th grade. In theory.

Some exam-passers will stay in high school, if only to play basketball or edit the yearbook or try out for the cheer squad. Others will feel ready to move on. If they do well in community college, they’ll be able to transfer to a good four-year university.

About Joanne


  1. This policy currently exists, de facto, in thousands of failing elementary schools across the country, where children may be absent for a large percentage of the school year, but are still passed as long as they come close to a passing grade on a single standardized reading test. In essence, we allow then to test out of a grade, despite having learned nothing of value.

  2. I hate to say it, but that option will only last until someone looks at the demographics and decides that it’s not fair to minorities. It will become another bloated program like so many of the “Honors” programs have become. Even the AP programs are packed with students who don’t pass the test, and, given their level of academic skills, shouldn’t be in the class.

  3. It depends how you look at this. I did something similar to this when I was in high school. Beginning at the age of 15 I reduced my number of High School classes in exchange for the ability to enroll in college classes. This was great as I was able to take a wider range of classes that appealed to my interests while at the same time earning credits toward my college degree. It also provided early exposure to an academic life in higher education. I think it could be quite beneficial if students were able to begin following passions by enrolling in a college classes at earlier ages. This might be just the motivation and exposure some need. We already know from Pew research and other stats that about 3/4 of our students find high school irrelevant. We need to begin thinking of out of the box ideas that will appeal to students.

    Lisa Nielsen
    Read my blog about educating innovatively at

  4. I love the idea. I see no reason to keep back kids ready for college level work or with a desire to get out into the real world. Choices – that’s what gives each of us the ability to shape our lives to suit our individual aspirations.

  5. This is not a new or radical idea.

    High school students have been taking classes at local community colleges in an organized way for some time. Please see The Middle College Consortium.

    Here are two program descriptions locally

    Middle College at College of San Mateo

    Middle College at Foothill Community College

  6. This is no different than Middle College in Nashville either. I am all for it – this opens it up to more than just the “at risk” kids —

  7. How is this program any different than a kid taking 5-6 AP classes in 11th or 12th Grade except the kid is taking those classes at a community college instead of high school.

    When I was a junior, I had 3 ap classes (us history, chemistry and english) and took trig at my local community college. As a senior, I took 4 ap classes (french, government, economics, and english) plus pre-calculus and calculus at the local cummunity college; I would have taken more AP classes but that was all my school offered. I was essentially done with school by lunch as a senior and the classes I did take were AP classes. When I came into ucla, I had enough credits to qualify as a sophmore.

  8. I did something like this as well, when I was in high school about 20 years ago.

    One sort of strange side-effect that occasionally popped up would be when I’d be asked out by a guy, and I’d have to make it clear that I was only 16. One particularly memorable experience is when the guy’s mouth dropped open and said, “What? What?? It’s not even safe to go to College anymore!” So, yeah. There’s an assumption that if you’re on a college campus, you’re not a minor. And all that that entails.

  9. So a student who tests out could leave school after 10th grade and go to college. What happens to a student who tests out, but doesn’t want to go to college. Is he required to stay in high school through 12th grade?

  10. I know a kid that started taking college classes at Santa Clara when she was in 7th grade, and after 8th grade started full-time there. She looks young for a college kid, but apparently even when she was in 7th grade the other students didn’t know that she wasn’t a regular student. I am pretty sure that she’s not dating…

  11. Minnesota has (I assume it still exists) a state-wide PSEO (post-secondary enrollment option) program which allows qualified high-schoolers to take classes at the college of their choice and the local school district pays tuition, fees and books. Students must satisfy appropriate prerequisites or test into the appropriate course and provide their own transportation. It is primarily designed for juniors and seniors, but I know of kids who never attended high school but started at the local community college right out of middle school. My child participated in the program, concurrently taking AP courses at a very competitive high school, and we were all very happy with it.

    This is somewhat off-topic, but it is not necessary to be enrolled in an AP course to be able to take the AP test. I have a child who passed several AP tests that way. Some were taken “cold” (no advance work of any kind) and some were prepped with the appropriate study guide.

  12. Hardlyb, you must be talking about my ex’s younger daughter, now a 15-year-old college sophomore. She lives at home and is not dating. She may have to wait till grad school.

  13. The question I have is will NH let bright sophomores take the harder exam if they wish and go straight to university or will they be forced to spend 2 years at the high school or a community college?

  14. My son skipped 7th and 8th grades and started 9th grade at age 12. He graduated from high school at age 16 and started college the next fall. There is a private school in my area that he attended that has done this for over 50 years. He didn’t miss anything of value from 7th and 8th grades.

  15. Joanne, I suppose I might be talking about her. I don’t know the family that well, but I think that the father said he had been married before. The daughter was rather unusual, but very funny. There can’t be a lot of girls like that…

    I didn’t date until I got to grad school, at 20, so I don’t think that it will hurt her a lot. Actually, I was a grad student in all but name at 18, but being 4-6 years younger than all of my classmates, and a huge geek, was too big a social barrier.

  16. Richard Aubrey says:

    Had some experience in the family on both sides of being younger than peers, and older.
    Better to be bit older. Socially, athletically.
    Imagine a bright fifteen-year old going away to college. Especially a girl
    This should be coordinated by the high school and use only local institutions of higher ed.

  17. California has something like this already – CHSPE. Upon completion, one receives a high school diploma “equivalent”. This “equivalent” is the requirement for all community colleges in CA. One may take the CHSPE when they reach the 2nd semester of 10th grade.