Early grad­u­a­tion path at high schools

High school diplo­mas un­der new pro­gram to be awarded this spring.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz rhau­r­witz@states­man.com

a new pro­gram will help high­achiev­ing stu­dents get their diplo­mas a year early with a good chance of ad­mis­sion to the Univer­sity of texas or texas a&m.

Un­der a pro­gram thought to be the first of its kind in the na­tion, some of the high­es­tachiev­ing stu­dents at Texas high schools will be able to grad­u­ate a year early with a very good chance of ad­mis­sion to the state’s two pub­lic flag­ship univer­si­ties.

The state Leg­is­la­ture au­tho­rized the early high school grad­u­a­tion op­tion in 2009. The first high school diplo­mas is­sued un­der the pro­gram will be awarded in the spring.

The Univer­sity of Texas and Texas A&M Univer­sity have es­tab­lished strict el­i­gi­bil­ity rules. A stu­dent must achieve high scores in English, math, sci­ence, so­cial stud­ies and a for­eign lan­guage on Ad­vanced Place­ment tests, In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate tests, SAT sub­ject tests or cer­tain other ex­ams.

In ad­di­tion, only stu­dents in par­tic­i­pat­ing school dis­tricts and char­ter schools are el­i­gi­ble.

The list of dis­tricts and char­ter schools is a work in progress, but 10 are be­ing in­vited to join ini­tially: the Austin, Beau­mont, Brown­wood, El­gin, Hi­dalgo, Manor

and Mag­no­lia school dis­tricts, and the KIPP Austin, KIPP Hous­ton and IDEA char­ter schools.

A broader call for par­tic­i­pa­tion is ex­pected to be is­sued af­ter the hol­i­days, said Har­ri­son Keller, vice provost for higher ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy and re­search at UT, which is ad­min­is­ter­ing the pro­gram for both flag­ships.

Qual­i­fy­ing stu­dents would be awarded high school diplo­mas at the end of their ju­nior year even if they had not com- pleted all of the cred­its typ­i­cally re­quired. The pool of qual­i­fy­ing stu­dents is ex­pected to be small, but those stu­dents are very tal­ented, Keller said.

The diplo­mas would not guar­an­tee ad­mis­sion to UT, A&M or any other school, but they would carry con­sid­er­able weight with ad­mis­sions of­fi­cers.

“We are pleased to part­ner with UT-Austin in mak­ing pos­si­ble this op­por­tu­nity — and ob­vi­ously hope our in­sti­tu­tions will be at­trac­tive higher ed­u­ca­tion des­ti­na­tions for the stu­dents who qual­ify for this new pro­gram,” said Pamela R. Matthews, vice provost for aca­demic af­fairs at A&M.

Of­fi­cials said no other state has an early high school grad­u­a­tion op­tion aligned with the ex­pec­ta­tions of its lead­ing univer­si­ties.

Grad­u­at­ing from high school a year early could be a good fit for stu­dents who, for ex­am­ple, have al­ready sat­is­fied grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments in math and who might oth­er­wise skip the sub­ject dur­ing their se­nior year, Keller said.

“That’s ac­tu­ally really bad for them,” he said of skip­ping math. “They for­get stuff, they lose mo­men­tum, and it’s tougher for them to get up to speed in col­lege.”

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