From 11th grade to college

Indiana will encourage students to skip senior year and go straight to college, the Hechinger Report notes. Under Gov. Mitch Daniels’ plan, high school students who complete their core requirements by the end of their junior year can go straight to college with a scholarship based on how much money the state would have spent — $6,000 to $8,000 for most — on their 12th-grade education.

Daniels said he came up with the idea after years of asking seniors he met across the state what they were up to and too often being told “not much.”

“I kept bumping into seniors who said, ‘Well, I’m done,’ ” he said. “They’d laugh and tell me they were having a good time. We are spending thousands of dollars on students who are eligible to move on.”

Senior year is a time for “drift and disconnection,” concludes the National Commission on the High School Senior Year.

Solutions over the past decade have trended toward mixing college and high school courses through dual-enrollment programs or early-college high schools, where students can earn an associate degree and a diploma.

But Daniels’ preferred strategy — shortening high school altogether — also is catching on.

In Idaho, 21 districts will give early-graduation scholarships. Kentucky is thinking about it. In the fall, eight states will begin a program that lets students test out of the last two years of high school and go directly to community college. The National Center on Education and the Economy and the Gates Foundation are backing the idea.

One of my best friends in high school left after 11th grade for college. She was impatient to get on with it. (She dropped out after a year to organize the proletariat for the revolution.)

My daughter’s half-sister skipped high school entirely. Now 18, she will earn a bachelor’s in classics, summa cum laude, on Saturday from the University of Santa Clara and go on to Berkeley for her PhD. It was a challenge to buy her a graduation card. Nothing seemed to fit quite right.

Update: Ed Next looks at high school students who attend college part-time.

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  1. The drift and disconnection argument makes some sense to me. Maybe senior year is holding them back a bit. Still, given the emotional and social maturity level of some of my college students, I can’t think that this is going to be a great idea for the average student.

  2. I can see having an option for finishing high school early. Some kids are ready to finish early & would be mature enough to head to college. Why should we make them spend more time in high school than necessary? I can also see an option for re-inventing senior year–adding in a thesis-type project, internships, community service, etc. And I like the idea of making a college-prep or job-prep year for some.

    What I object to is automatically giving students scholarship money for finishing early. The kids who are likely to complete their academic requirements earlier are likely to already be better off. A program designed to reward those who already have a leg up doesn’t sit well with me.

    Put the savings in a fund for kids who would qualify for financial aid and grant it on the basis of need, whether they finish early or not.

  3. I’d rather compact the K-8 curriculum to 7 years for the top 1/4 to 1/3 of students and then give them 4 full years’ worth of high school work. Elementary school is where I remember the most boredom with the curriculum.

  4. Yes, I agree–better to skip the two wasted years of middle school than drop a year of high school.

  5. You need to make this work for non-college-bound students as well. Graduation rates among the non-academically-successful would go up if the end were in sight sooner. Teaching math and reading/writing through career-oriented classes would help too.

  6. palisadesk says:

    My preference would be to compact the curriculum much earlier than middle school. Unlike Cal, I found the most wasted time to be in K-5, not 6-8. There was more content, more breadth of curriculum:choral music, instrumental music, languages -French, Spanish, Latin and German in my school at the time-, real history and geography instead of “social studies,” and other areas that were less time-wasting than the vapidity of K-5 and All About Me themes and leaf collections.


    Shakling kids to their same-age peers is a majpr impediment to providing appropriate challenge for the adept OR appropriate skill-building for the slower learners.

  7. Soapbox0916 says:

    I want to see how this gets actually implemented.

    I live in Indiana and my Governor Mitch comes up with some cool ideas in theory, but he does such a horrible job of following through with the details that are needed to actually accomplish these ideas.

    I don’t think those outside of Indiana (or even many within Indiana) realize how many of Mitch’s ideas and programs quitely fall apart or get cut later on. Mitch gets credit for starting so much, but I don’t think enough people are aware of how much disappears.

    This seems like it would be fairly easy to put in place as a policy, but I have my doubts.

  8. Roger Sweeny says:

    What? Move students away from their age mates? That’s reason two that most students come to school. (Reason one is “my parents made me.”)

  9. Maybe a good idea, maybe not. I took 6 AP classes senior year. I basically had AP classes, study hall, and gym. But honestly, I greatly preferred my high school classes in Physics, Chemistry, and Calculus to their college counterparts. High school teachers are teachers and educators, college professors are academics and researchers. It shows, especially in math where the profs really don’t know how to communicate using the English language.

    My useless classload was spread out pretty widely over all my years of K-12 schooling. I learned no useful English in high school. Grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction was completed in 8th grade. History and social studies were largely covering topics for the second or third time as well. On the other hand, I can’t see how you would compact math instruction without devoting significantly more class time to it. Without speeding up math instruction, you won’t have the toolbox for the hard sciences.

  10. “On the other hand, I can’t see how you would compact math instruction without devoting significantly more class time to it.”

    Go at a faster pace and cut back on the amount of review. Bright kids are up to the challenge if schools are willing to give them a compacted curriculum.

  11. Sean Mays says:


    CW’s on target – schools manage it routinely. It’s not unusual for 9th graders to take Geometry and to a lesser extent Algebra II. Others are stuck in Pre-Algebra. Compact away! Perhaps 4 to 6 weeks of a typical math curriculum are review. If you could get rid of that for 6 years, you’ll easily pick up a year.

    As for giving the kids some or all of the tuition saved, why not? It’s a great incentive. When I started at the University of Chicago, the financial aid office did this, giving you a 50% credit for outside scholarship money, you could essentially modify your aid package however you pleased with that. Didn’t want so much work study? Get a scholarship for twice that much money and poof! Away it went.

    Heck, we could extend the concept, give kids so many semesters of education vouchers. Imagine school becomes competency driven, rather than seat time. If you finish your required stuff early, we pay for whatever advanced (and yes, vocational is included) training you want. Heck, submit a good business plan and you can have half the money as a start up stake. If you use it all up in middle school, well, sorry; hit the road Jack. Probably too harsh.

  12. Or how about we make kids in high school learn more? Indiana is a horrible example of what’s required to graduate. I moved to Indiana while in college. While I was in college I found many of my peers unprepared for college, and that was over 20 years ago. It’s worse now. When my kids were little our favorite babysitter had straight As and only had to take one class each trimester her senior year in order to graduate. She took nutrition, writing, and stained glass, and worked to save money for college. When I was a senior I still had math, language arts, foreign language, and social studies requirements to fulfill, and I had taken summer classes! I went to college prepared, with no need for remedial classes, unlike many high school graduates today.

    I agree that we need to worry less about keeping kids with their age mates. I also agree that kids who have met all the requirements for graduation should be allowed to graduate early. I have no problem with rewarding that. But I still feel strongly that graduates should actually be educated before we let them leave school.

  13. This goes back to the concept of tracking (a very dirty concept) and grouping students by ability, rather than age. If a 15 year old is smart enough to handle college, let them have at it…by the time they reach 18, they can graduate with
    a high school diploma and an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

  14. Quoth Rachel Levy:

    What I object to is automatically giving students scholarship money for finishing early. The kids who are likely to complete their academic requirements earlier are likely to already be better off.

    Are they?  From the article:  “federal and state policies … pressure schools to concentrate their resources on getting children to minimal math and reading competencies. That means high school is often a fairly dismal place for faster learners.”  (Not just high school, either.)

    A program designed to reward those who already have a leg up doesn’t sit well with me.

    This is the kind of attitude behind the “no child gets ahead” program.  Seriously, cui bono?  Many fast learners exhausted the offerings in their HS in their area of concentration.  Yet everyone else is getting X “years” of education; what do they do, sit in blow-off classes or drop out so as not to waste their limited time?

    Letting students apply their tax money to higher education instead of more HS is voucher-like and benefits everyone but the public-school monopoly.  I think that’s where the objections are coming from; everyone else either wins or breaks even.