State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26th District) has proposed a bill to allow academically advanced students to get a jump start on college.
The bill allows students to test out of their senior year of high school and move on to college early. The state Education Committee voted unanimously to pass the legislation out of committee. It now awaits a vote by the full General Assembly.
“The proposal is to have academically advanced 11th graders take a qualifying test or use current grades and PSAT/SAT/ACT and apply to waive their final year of high school. This would allow them to begin college early,” Ms. Boucher said. “Qualified students should also receive a full scholarship for tuition in a possible future enhancement to this program, which puts a special emphasis on math, science and engineering.”
‘Worth looking into’
Weston High School Principal Lisa Wolak said the idea is “certainly worth looking into.”
While there are a few potential issues, the program “would provide students with different pathways to learning,” and that is something the Weston school district has always focused on, Ms. Wolak said.
She especially likes the emphasis on what is known in educational circles as “STEM” — science, technology, engineering, and math. Not only are these key areas of focus at Weston High School, but encouraging students to pursue these areas is a good way to keep them in the state after graduation from college, since they are skills that can be applied to professions that already exist in Connecticut, Ms. Wolak said.
And then there is the economic benefit, both to students and their families in the form of scholarship money and to the taxpayers who would no longer be responsible for educating the students who test out of their senior year.
“There is an obvious economic value,” Ms. Wolak said.
But she does have some concerns about the proposed program.
She is interested in what kind of exam and criteria would be used to determine who is eligible to test out of senior year.
There is a “social and emotional aspect” that is also a concern, Ms. Wolak said. Some students are already young when they head off to college; to ask a 15- or 16-year-old to be ready for college life is not always realistic, no matter how academically talented the student may be, she said.
Then there is the issue of missing one’s senior year, she said. Many students want to experience that year in a more traditional environment. Skipping that year would mean missing things like the senior prom, sports participation, graduation, and more.
“Truthfully, I can’t see a lot of kids from here doing it,” Ms. Wolak said of the program’s effect on Weston. “They like and look forward to senior year,” and most already can and do take advantage of Advanced Placement (AP) classes to earn college credit while still in high school, she pointed out.
“But,” she added, “as a way to expand kids’ options, I think it would be wonderful.”